Friends, I’m talking about two things today that are not very popular but that help us grow more than anything else we encounter. Crisis and conflict. They sound like things we want to avoid at all costs, I know, and certainly, an unexpected crisis or hard conflict is not enjoyable. But what I want to talk about is what happens after the crisis or conflict, what we learn, what it shows us, and how we grow from these situations. There is so much positive opportunity in a good, solid, conflict or crisis.

If we continually try to avoid conflict, it will return repeatedly, usually more intensely than before. So it’s a good idea to deal with it when it’s still small. Conflict carries its own lesson because it’s a clash between people or values and we need to resolve it. A crisis is an unexpected event. By its very nature, a crisis can’t be planned for. We can’t see a crisis coming. But when it arrives, we absolutely feel its impact and have to know how to get through it. And it’s how we deal with and get through both of these things that lets us learn so much of value. 

Are you prepared for a crisis in your business? Something that potentially takes you out of action could end your business if you aren’t prepared for such an event. And even if you’re not prepared, how you communicate with your stakeholders, staff, and customers matters a lot to how successfully you navigate the crisis. I’m going to lay out examples for you and walk you through what to look for, and what to prepare. Conflict tends to make us want to put our head in the sand but a good conflict, grounded in respect, can bring to light things that aren’t working that we can fix for the better. I’ll talk about what to look for in conflict and how not to react in the moment. Conflict and crisis, things we tend to avoid, can actually be a great benefit to our businesses.

Key Moments

03:08 Crisis illustrated by Steve Jobs in 2003

05:23 How improperly managed crisis erodes trust

11:26 Defining a good conflict

  • We can learn a lot from Tim Cook’s story at Apple
  • Starbucks illustrates how to manage a conflict between customers and your business
  • What are the steps we can take to prepare for crisis and conflict?

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Resources discussed in this episode:

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Contact Kari Lotzien | Be the Anchor: 

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Transcript:

Kari Lotzien: [00:00:02] Welcome to Be the Anchor, the podcast. I’m your host, business and leadership coach Kari Lotzien. When the seas of life get stormy, and they always will, it is not up to us to captain anyone else’s ship or to try to calm the waters of the ocean. It’s up to us to set our own destination for what we really want, and to learn how to navigate those waves of life together while finding that place of security and stability with others. I call this being an anchor. Hello my friends. I’m so glad you’re here. Today I want to talk to you about two of what I believe to be the greatest teachers in life. A great crisis and a good, hard conflict. Now, those might not sound like things that you want to sign up for in terms of growth and development in your life. But what I want to make sure of is that you don’t miss an opportunity to really grow and learn when those things come up in life. And every biography that I’ve read, every business book of someone who has gone on to achieve incredible things with their lives, in every single story and every single example, they have used both conflict and crisis to move towards growth. Every time. And I want to tell you more than ever that there’s a different way to do this, that we can learn through flow and abundance and affirmations, and that it can be easy. And although I definitely think there is a time and a place where we want to introduce ease and we want to bring that in, I don’t want you to miss the opportunity that can come from a good, solid conflict or crisis. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:01:54] It’s like when we’re squeezed by stress or tension, that it expedites our ability to learn and to really create change quickly if we take the opportunity. Now, if you don’t take the opportunity, I feel like these are the things that will come back to us, and we keep learning that lesson over and over again. You’ve heard the phrase that, you know, when life whispers to you and kind of says, hey, you know what I think something’s up here, and you don’t pay attention to it, the next time that lesson comes, that conflict, that crisis comes a little bit louder and really taps you on the back. And maybe the next thing it wallops you right over the head and says, okay, I’m not playing anymore, here’s how you’re going to learn or not. This becomes the fork in the road. I want you to listen when it’s a little bit lighter and it’s a little bit easier. Now, I didn’t do that. There’s been so many times where I had to be walloped over the head before I actually got the lesson that was built, and I don’t want that for you. So today I want to talk about the two things, I want to talk about the opportunity that conflict brings and the opportunity that crisis can bring. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:03:03] Now let’s start with crisis. In 2003 you may be aware of the story that this is when Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Now Apple was growing, it was in its prime at this time. And this crisis, which a crisis is something that you cannot predict, it all of a sudden shows up, usually at the worst time, and knocks you right off your feet. Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was not something that just knocked Steve Jobs off his feet. It knocked potentially Apple off of its feet. But in that process, there was some really key things that Apple did to make sure that this was not also the crisis for the business and the demise. What they did is they had set up Tim Cook to take over, and it was clearly put into place that he would start moving into more of a leadership role in establishing the company so that we were moving forward. I think this is one of the lessons that we want to learn is before. Before any crisis presents itself, do you have someone that you can tap out to? I think this is the lesson that we want to see in business. If you needed to be away for 4 to 6 weeks, or longer, how would your business operate without you? Or, at best, with you at very minimal capacity. Because the reality is, that thing that we can learn from Steve Jobs in this situation, he was not available. There was no option for him to continue to run a company the size of Apple and manage his own health. It couldn’t happen at the same time. But he had someone in place that he could tap out that could take over, that was already respected, already knew what was going on. So when you look at your company, are there places where – I’m not saying that your company won’t be affected at all – but if you had to step away, are there places that you could change, automate, slow down? Do you have recurring revenue or passive income in your business that could still come in if you were not actually there, physically or mentally able to do the work?

Kari Lotzien: [00:05:23] The next thing that we saw in this is in many situations when crisis comes up, especially with someone in a high leadership position or the key person who has relationships with your stakeholders or your clients, we tend to want to hide the crisis and pretend that there’s nothing going on so that people don’t lose trust in the company. Now, here’s the lesson I want to point out: if you hide, if you try to not acknowledge what’s going on and then share the plan of how you’re going to approach the situation, this is when people lose trust. This is when your employees, your customers lose trust because things, they will sense that something’s up. They sense that things aren’t quite right. And this is when they start to feel uncertain or unsure of where things are going. That’s how a lack of trust develops. The lack of trust doesn’t come from that leader having to step away. And time and time again, I’ve seen it where we want to be able to be transparent within reason. So you’re not going to necessarily dump out all of the details of what’s going on with a crisis in your life, but you do want to be able to share with your stakeholders, with your team, with your customers, that you are stepping away or that key team member is stepping away. And what you’re sharing is, here’s the plan that we have stepping forward so that this doesn’t interrupt the flow of the business, that you’re still reassuring and providing that stability and security. So I think the keys are when you are facing crisis – and here’s the thing you can’t plan for it, you have to plan ahead of it. So ask yourself when something comes up or if something comes up, what do I have in place so that my company can keep operating? And I want you to not only just think about you as the leader if you have a leadership position in your own company, but I also want you to think about your key team members. If any one of them suddenly was ill, or had to take time away, or was not available to do the job that they’re doing, what is your process in being able to step in and move forward now? 

Kari Lotzien: [00:07:39] Let’s just say that you didn’t have a plan, that all of a sudden crisis happened. All of a sudden you had to step away from your business. You suddenly lost a key employee, and you didn’t have a plan. You were completely caught on your heels and feel like you just got hit by a semi truck, and you’re not sure what to do. I think this is how most of us face crisis, we don’t like to think about it, nobody likes to plan for the worst case scenario so many of us don’t do it. But when you’re in a situation where maybe you’ve been hit by that semi truck of life and it’s knocked you off of your feet, what can happen is we get through the crisis. So you think, oh my goodness, like my business did lose revenue or all of a sudden our customers were really disappointed and that was really, really difficult and thank goodness we’re through it. We come out the other side and we start rebuilding. I don’t want you to do that. I don’t want you to waste the lessons in that crisis. When you come back, I want you to review backwards, and I really want you to look at what could I have done differently that would have prevented the additional, right, that snowball effect of the crisis in how it took over my business or my life, how can I prevent that from happening again? So that if something catastrophic happens again, I’m not put in the exact same position again? And I think many times I see naturally, I think we do this, that when we’ve overcome a challenge, our shoulders drop and we go, oh, thank goodness things are back to normal. And we miss the opportunity to create the change. The crisis can be the perfect time that identifies we’ve got some really big gaps in the company, or we are way too dependent on this one person. I think of this if you’re a parent and I kind of giggle but when kids are little and you know mom has to go away for a little while, or, you know, if dad is the primary caregiver in being that front line, does the drop offs and the pickups and makes the lunches and makes sure that they know what shirt the kid is supposed to wear to school that day, when that person is away and someone else has to take over that role… Now, I know that most of you who hold that role, we get ahead of it and we make sure that there’s a calendar that says, this is what has to happen, and we’ve got freezer meals, and we try to prepare ahead because we know how much pressure that holds. We know the stress that it’s going to put on the system on the other side for someone else to pick that up. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:10:21] You are doing a disservice when that happens. Because when that crisis hits or when you’re away for an extended period of time, you want to make sure that someone else recognizes all the pieces that you’re doing and holding and can take over. You never want to have so much responsibility riding on one person, because it’s not good for us. In our own nervous systems, we carry too much, we feel like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. But it also prevents others, like Tim Cook in this example, from being able to step into a leadership role and showcase how he can do that really well. Don’t want you to miss the opportunity. So when you look back, just think, what could I have done differently? Did this crisis identify some areas of need in the business or in my personal life, where things are just a little bit too dependent and we could diversify a little bit more so there’s not this really intense responsibility on one person or one system?

Kari Lotzien: [00:11:23] Okay. The next. I want to talk about a good conflict. In one of my favorite books when it comes to leadership is Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I love this book and one of the five dysfunctions that he talks about that is jeopardizing for a team is when a team avoids conflict. Yes. A great team should have conflict. They should have safe conflict. And I think that when we look at conflict on a team, sometimes as a leader we can feel like the team is fighting, we’re not getting along, we’re having disagreements, we’re not sure the direction we want to go. And in that, we might find ourselves wanting to just help everyone get along and just settle everybody down so that we’re all playing nice in the sandbox again. I want you to hear this loud and clear. When we do that, when we don’t invite conflict, safe conflict, respectful conflict, into our teams, into our families, into our friendships, into every area of your life, if you don’t have the opportunity to introduce conflict or disagreement, you are missing opportunities. Now, sometimes conflict comes to us and we don’t expect it. So it might come in a place where you’ve got a disgruntled team member who feels like they’re being treated unfairly, who feels like they’re underpaid, and now they’re starting to talk to everyone else on your team, and it’s spreading. And all of a sudden, you might feel that pressure that you need to solve the problem or get rid of the person who is the instigator or who is the most vocal, and remove that so you can go back to just being status quo and everybody gets along again. But here’s the piece that we miss, is that when we don’t invite conflict, when we don’t invite disagreement, we miss opportunities. Because if everyone agrees and we all see things the exact same way, and we agree that’s the way that we should be doing something, we miss the gaps. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:13:32] We don’t have someone saying, well, hey, wait, what about this? Could we think about it in another way? I want to give you an example of this. So when you come back, you might be aware of this, if you’re a fan of Starbucks like I am, I love myself a good coffee. Now, I’m not particularly attached to Starbucks, I like a good coffee offered anywhere. It has to be good and strong, has to have a nice, you know, dark roast is my absolute favorite. Now I digress, but in 2007, Starbucks was going through a period where they had substantial growth. So the revenue was there but all of a sudden what they were seeing is their customer satisfaction numbers were dropping rapidly. We also started to see that there was more competition on the market, where small local coffee shops were opening up that also had exceptional coffee. And the whole support local and small business was being introduced into that industry, which presented a threat to Starbucks. Now when that came up and when the conflict – so customers being disappointed were coming to Starbucks – Howard Schultz could have said, nope, this is the way it is. This is what we offer and you’re going to like it and if you don’t like it, too bad for you. And we carry on. He could have let those complaints and the customer satisfaction take him down and think, I have a terrible business. This is not working. I am a failure. He could have blamed others and said, you know what the problem is – and I’m saying this intentionally – I just can’t find good people. People just don’t care about their work the same way they used to. I don’t know if Starbucks is going to continue because this generation, these baristas just don’t take their job seriously. He could have blamed others. He could have blamed his customers that they’re just too demanding. He could have taken it all on himself and thought, no, I just can’t continue on, obviously we are doing a terrible job and we are failing. But he didn’t. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:15:42] He didn’t do any of those things. What he did was number one, didn’t take it personally. He listened. And I think the first step is most people don’t want to bring disagreements to you. They don’t want to point out where they’re feeling upset or frustrated or confused or challenged, because we’re afraid that the leader will react negatively, that they’ll blame us, that they’ll blame themselves, or that they’ll react in anger or hostility. The first thing you want to do as a leader is be able to truly listen. I think being able to truly listen is partly due to you can anchor your own nervous system. in the moment you know how to take a breath, you know how to pause your reaction, you know how to not fly off the handle and to truly invite. To stay curious, to ask more questions, to ensure you understand the problem and that you, I always say, come back to the data. Learn as much as you can so that you clearly understand the problem. And the first place that we can really do that is by anchoring our nervous system and inviting a space where people can share with us without it being personal. First step in conflict. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:17:14] The next place is that they can safely share and feel that they are not at risk. Like I said, sometimes people will be the one that says, I feel like I’m underpaid, I feel like you work us too hard. I feel like this is unfair and you think that that person is the problem, and by removing that person, the problem goes away. That person may just represent the voice of the team, and you need to be able to dig past just that single person and understand clearly, is this the opinion, is this a pattern in my team? Is this a pattern with our customers that it’s not just that individual that’s the problem, but that individual may just be the one who had the courage to speak up and had the courage to share. In which case, we really want that person to feel valued, to feel safe in sharing with us, and to know that even when they bring up concerns, they still belong, that they are still respected, they are still a part of the team, that we’re not just going to say, well, if you don’t agree, then you’re out. So we want to make sure that you have a safe space where people can share. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:18:45] Now, I’m not saying that that means people can come in and scream and yell and share in a disrespectful way. What we want to do is create a container. So as a leader, you’re giving ways where people are asked for their feedback on a regular basis. What you’re doing, those surveys, or you’re giving safe places where people can be asked what’s working, what’s not working, do you see any gaps, share an idea and then tell me. Where do you see my, where are my blind spots? What am I not seeing? Shoot holes in my problem. When you create natural conflict on your team, you will always have a more broad perspective on what your challenges truly are, and when it’s through conflict and inviting that disagreement that you will be able to get out of your own way and shine lights in those blind spots that then allow you to move towards change. So you want a format to be able to share. So then the next place in that is that you want to then, once they’ve shared, we come back to okay so based on what I’ve heard in this conflict, how does this fit with the core values of my company? So last week, or in the last episode, I talked about core values not being enough. This is where I see the gap most often in business. Is we have core values, we put them on the wall, we talk about safety and transparency. We talk about the business feeling like a family. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:20:43] Well, I can tell you that in a family there is conflict. There are so many times where we disagree, but we still belong. So I want to know when we take that core value and we shift it to, okay, so how does our core value demonstrate itself when we are in a situation of conflict? If you take someone off your team every time they disagree with you, or you reward every person that naturally agrees with you and you move them into a leadership or senior level position, that tells you that that concept of everyone here is treated like family doesn’t land. That if your core value has to do with transparency and someone disagrees with you, but they don’t feel safe that they can speak up, that’s not true transparency. So I want to know. I want you to ask yourself if your business values are things like transparency, loyalty, trust, relationship, family, how are those demonstrated when you come up to conflict? Because then when you can put those things in action, when you demonstrate that, this is how you create change. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:22:16] I’m going to bring it back to the Starbucks story. What happened during this time, during 2007 when all of a sudden customers were not satisfied, they were seeing a decline in revenue because there was more competition from smaller spaces, they shifted. This is when Starbucks introduced more non-coffee options, decaffeinated options, some kind of child-friendly options. All of a sudden, in this process where they started seeking feedback from the baristas, they went back. They didn’t blame the baristas to say, well, it’s because they don’t care and they don’t take their job seriously. They went back and said, okay, we need to make sure that our training programs are really solid so that we are delivering the same level of product to our customers across every location. And I think one of the things that is really unique about Starbucks is that they have consistency along with being able to customize their product. And this is such a unique combination because if you’re a Starbucks barista, all of a sudden you want to know how to make that specific latte or that specific drink, but now you can adjust it for temperature and how much foam you want and what size and do you want to add a triple shot of vanilla? In all of those processes it is a consistent product along with the ability to customize. This is a really unique training challenge when you’re looking at your systems and processes in onboarding new staff. So as they were developing these new products and as they were improving their onboarding and their training programs for their baristas, all of that came through conflict. All of that came by really looking at what are our customers complaining about? What are our baristas complaining about? How is this whole process working?

Kari Lotzien: [00:25:00] If Howard Schultz would have started firing baristas who were underperforming, would have taken it upon himself to say, well, this is, you know, it’s because we have difficult customers. If he would have taken it on personally to say, well, it’s because we don’t have a great product and obviously this wasn’t a good idea, the opportunity for Starbucks to be what it is today would have been lost. And I don’t want that for you. So I know, I completely understand: being in conflict, it’s hard on our nervous systems. It makes us feel like we are threatened. It can sometimes feel very personal. It can feel, especially if your small business is your baby, and it’s the thing that you just give your heart and soul and your extra time and your weekends and your evenings to, it does feel personal. I completely get that. But I hope that today, as we’ve talked through this, you can really see that in every single crisis, in every single conflict, there is also opportunity to move towards change and growth like nothing else I have ever seen. So if you’re going through a time right now where you’re thinking, oh my goodness, I just feel like I am being drug along and things are hard and maybe you can’t see your way out of it right now, just know it’s part of it. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It doesn’t mean that your ideas are terrible. It doesn’t mean that people are terrible, that your customers are no good, or that your staff just doesn’t care. There’s an opportunity behind this. And even if you can’t see it right now, even if today the only thing you can do is just put one foot in front of the other to get through the next thing that you need to face, please know that I understand that. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:27:10] Please know that I am completely there for you. I have sat in my own business when crisis hit, in tears, trying to train a new staff member so that I could leave the business because there were certain things that only I knew how to do in there. And when that crisis hit my own business really unexpectedly, I honest to goodness, I thought it was going to be the demise of my business, I really did. I thought I had dreams that that was going to be it, that I was going to have to close shop and just walk away because I didn’t have the capacity to do all of the things in my business that I was doing before. And it was number 1 in 22 years of running a business, that major crisis in my life that hit completely unexpectedly, is still the thing that I look back on and go, that was my greatest teacher. That’s when I learned the most about delegation. That’s when I learned the most about trust. It’s when I learned the most about systems and being really consistent. And I learned how to lead with transparency without introducing or spreading fear in the business. I was able to be clear and still introduce that feeling of stability and security. I know. I’ve lived it. I know how it’s done. Now, I gave you fancy examples from Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz in their businesses because they’re so in the limelight. But I know every business owner and many, many of my clients will talk about the same sort of thing, there’s an opportunity here that I don’t want you to miss. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. Feel free, send me an email or send me a DM on social media. I want to hear what lessons have you learned through crisis or through conflict, that maybe if you wouldn’t have leaned into it, you would have missed completely and it would have changed. Because looking backwards, we have that 20/20 eyesight to be able to say, oh, I see how this all worked in sequence with each other, because when you’re in it, it’s just no fun. So if you’re in it right now, that’s all I want to say, is that one step at a time. Be really aware of how you’re perceiving it. Be aware of your own thoughts. Many of them are not true. They’re lying to you right now to try to protect you. But once you come through this, be sure that you look back so that you don’t miss the lessons from the great crisis or the great conflict as you move to the next step and really implement that change that can give your business, your whole life even stronger and even better than it was before.

Kari Lotzien: [00:29:51] Thank you so much for being here. If you have not liked and subscribed yet, well why not? I would love for you to just click those three little buttons. It makes a difference. And this is how this podcast gets shared, this is how more people learn about what’s going on. And my passion right now is I really want to provide free content for small business owners who might not have big budgets to work with a high level coach. Now, my budgets are not high level, so if you want to work with me, I’d love to dig into your business. But I want to make sure that there is still a ton of free resources out there for people like you and I, who’ve been in the depths of it just working through this day to day. Be sure to like and subscribe. I’d ultra appreciate if you would share it with someone who just might be going through a hard time right now and can’t see the other side. Thanks so much! We’ll see you next time.

Kari Lotzien: [00:30:47] Please know that this podcast is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitution for medical or professional mental health advice. If you require support, please do reach out. Thanks so much.