400 reflection paper


Table of Contents Praise for Have a Nice Conflict

Title Page



About the Authors


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Letter from John Starr: Industries

John's Notebook

Dr. Mac's Statement of Philosophy: A Philosophical Approach to Learning as Written from the Perspective of Dr. Mac Wilson

Character Assessment Results The 7 Motivational Value Systems Main Characters Conflict Sequence Summary of Character SDI Results Supporting Characters

Praise for Have a Nice Conflict

“The authors seek to empower readers to become masters of their own conflict and control their own lives. Have a Nice Conflict is a powerful read for anyone who wants to be able to diffuse life's conflicts more effectively.”

—The Midwest Book Review “In telling the story of John Doyle, Have a Nice Conflict gives us an everyman who faces the same conflicts—large and small—that each of us experiences every day at home and in the workplace. Enter Dr. Mac, a combination of Marley's ghost, Yoda, and Peter Drucker to guide John—and us— through critical lessons in how to recognize, categorize, and deal with these conflicts. Within the context of an easy-to-read, enjoyable story, the authors provide valuable lessons that everyone who manages or works with people should know.”

—Mark Allen, professor, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University; author, The Corporate University Handbook

“This book gives a positive and easy-to-remember methodology to deal with conflicts, both large and small.”

—Peggy Thurmond, former CFO, McGladrey Capital Markets “Have a Nice Conflict does a superb job of distilling key personnel concepts into a succinct format that will be of great benefit to managers and employees alike. This narrative volume presents the enduring management principles of psychologist Elias Porter in an eminently sensible and approachable way. The authors use a case example to illuminate fundamental concepts in a manner that is both compelling and readable. A definite addition to the personnel management bookshelf.”

—Morgan T. Sammons, dean, California School of Professional Psychology “With many of the latest popular business books, I fail to make the link from theory to the practical application of their contents, but because of the storybook format and application to relationships beyond business, the link from theoretical to practical in Have a Nice Conflict was obvious. Once I began seeing myself in the behaviors of one of the main characters, I couldn't put it down. Have a Nice Conflict heightened my understanding of Relationship Awareness Theory and kindled a desire to learn more!”

—Jonathan McGrael, director, training and development, Arbor Pharmaceuticals “A gem! This book is packed with secrets for resolving conflict and attaining success. Read it now!”

—Mike Song, coauthor, The Hamster Revolution: Manage Your Email Before It Manages You “Turning conflict into opportunity is a blend of skill and art best not left to learning by trial and costly error. The authors brilliantly take you through John Doyle's personal and professional journey. I found myself putting the insights to use the same day I read the book!”

—Ron Campbell, president, Center for Leadership Studies, Situational Leadership “The best learning comes from stories, and you will not want to put this story down. The book is well written and full of good wit, with memorable Relationship Awareness Theory throughout.”

—Susan M. Hahn, president, Swan Consulting Group, Inc. “Have a Nice Conflict is the perfect resource to use in working with student groups, faculty, and staff.

The authors weave the theory and its practical application in a wonderful and humorous story. As the student disciplinary officer of the college, I find it also a helpful tool in mediating conflict to a successful outcome for all parties involved.”

—Nikki Schaper, associate dean, student services, MiraCosta College “This engaging book wonderfully illustrates skills that will help you turn the conflicts of your daily life into seeds of positive change—and it shows you how to do it!”

—Tony LoRe, CEO, founder, Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis

Copyright © 2011, 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Previously copyright by Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Published by Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint

One Montgomery Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA 94104-4594 www.josseybass.com

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as

permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax

978-646-8600, or on theWeb at www.copyright.com. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ

07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, or online at www.wiley.com/go/permissions. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in

preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of

merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable

for your situation. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages,

including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Readers should be aware that InternetWeb sites offered as citations and/or sources for further information may have changed or

disappeared between the time this was written and when it is read. Jossey-Bass books and products are available through most bookstores. To contact Jossey-Bass directly call our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 800-956-7739, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3986,

or fax 317-572-4002. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats and by print-on-demand. Some material included with standard print versions of this book may not be included in e-books or in print-on-demand. If the version of this book that you purchased references media such as CD or DVD that was not included in your purchase, you may download this material at http://booksupport.wiley.com. For more information

about Wiley products, visit www.wiley.com. Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file with the Library of Congress.

ISBN 978-1-118-20276-0 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-118-21927-0 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-118-21937-9 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-118-21939-3 (ebk)


First and foremost, this book would not have been possible without the invaluable and practical theory of relationship awareness developed by Elias H. Porter (1914–1987). Each of us has devoted a significant portion of our careers applying these concepts with people in all walks of life and all types of organizations. We are most grateful to the many people who invited us into their organizations and allowed us to learn with them on difficult interpersonal conflicts.

Tim Scudder

Michael Patterson

Kent Mitchell

About the Authors

Tim Scudder, CPA, is the president of Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc., and has consulted with the organization development, training, and human resources departments of many corporate, government, education, and nonprofit organizations. The author of several experiential training programs, Tim is a founding director of the Center for the Development of the Leaders at the California School of Professional Psychology. He lives in Carlsbad, California, with his wife and three daughters. Michael Patterson, Ed.D., is the vice president of business development for Personal Strengths USA.

Mike began his career as a U.S. Army officer and then spent twenty years in a variety of sales, marketing, and training roles in the pharmaceutical industry. Mike is also a speaker and adjunct professor teaching in the doctoral program at Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his wife and son. Kent Mitchell is the vice president of communications for Personal Strengths USA and a produced and

award-winning writer and playwright. Before joining Personal Strengths, he ran an advertising design agency in the Los Angeles area. Kent has actively worked with the principles and tools of Relationship Awareness for over fifteen years. He lives in Long Beach, California, with his wife and son. Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc., is based in Carlsbad, California, and serves customers through a

global network of interrelated distributors who offer products and services consistent with the ideas in this book in three main categories:

1. Training and development services: direct training for teams and individuals 2. Train the trainer services: Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) certification, co-facilitation, and curriculum design 3. SDI and related products: self-assessments, workplace learning tools, books, video, and other paper and electronic resources. The SDI is available in over twenty languages.

SDI assessments are available for use by certified facilitators who successfully complete the SDI Certification training. Facilitators may be independent or employed by any type of organization. As such, training and development services that incorporate the SDI are available from many individual consultants and large consulting organizations. The capacity for delivery of these services can also be developed within an organization's training, human resources, organization development, or other similar departments.


In the story that follows, we explore the practical ideas of relationship awareness theory. Although this tale is pure fiction, the situations were inspired by our real-world experiences in personal and organizational development—and life in general. We hope that this book will make accessible to you some of the principles of managing conflict

effectively. And when we say effective, we mean in ways that not only resolve the problem but also strengthen the relationships of the people involved. We further hope that you will discover a new understanding of people and learn new techniques that can reduce the amount of conflict you experience in your life. Much of this story focuses on the workplace. But as you will soon see, the principles of conflict

management explored here apply to the entire spectrum of your relationships—personal and professional. Relationship awareness theory was developed over forty years ago and is being applied in some of the

world's largest organizations. Those who are familiar with the theory (and the tools based on it) may enjoy referring to the material that follows the story where we have provided the motivational value systems and conflict sequences of our characters. And if you are not familiar with the theory, don't worry. That's about to change. Thank you for reading this book. We trust you will find something useful on this journey—something that

will help make your next conflict a nice one.

Chapter One

At exactly 3:07 in the afternoon, John Doyle concluded that this was the worst day of his career. He could barely feel his feet hitting the floor as he retreated to his office, which now felt like a hundred grueling miles from Human Resources. As he made his way back through the bustling office building, the HR manager's words repeated in his head until they lost all form and meaning. From her first words, he knew what she was going to say. He could see it in her face as she rattled off the obligatory pleasantries. It felt like an eternity before she got around to the point, and it was all he could do not to walk out in the middle of it. Yet somehow he sat there, on the edge of his seat, praying he was wrong. Finally, her face took on a tortured look he was sure she had practiced in the mirror beforehand. “I'm

sorry, John. You were not selected for promotion at this time.” The words that followed may as well have been in Swahili. They bounced off him and littered the floor. Her weak offers of constructive feedback were drowned out by the tornado raging in John's head—thoughts of panic, embarrassment, exhaustion, and anger swirled with ferocious intensity. Now he was walking through the crowded bullpen of the sales department, his face burning, his limbs

tingling. Did they know? Were they staring? The infamous grapevine of Starr Industries was quite clear on the matter. Although not an official policy, John knew that there was a three-strikes rule in the company: get passed over for promotion three times, and you might as well start looking for another job. You were damaged goods as far as senior management was concerned. John had just sat through his second strike. If he could bring himself to look around, he was sure he'd recognize the looks on his coworkers' faces. They were watching a man whose career was racing toward a brick wall. “How did it go?” The mere sound of Cassie's voice made John nauseous. Without even a glance at his sales assistant, he passed her desk and closed himself in his office. He

hated that Cassie knew his schedule. Granted, it was her job to know, but now he just wanted to be anonymous—and anywhere but here. He wanted today to have been a bad dream. He was anxious to wake up, wipe the sweat from his brow, and turn over. But he was very much awake. His visit to HR was only the most recent gut punch in a day full of them.

John collapsed in his chair and stared at the wall. It wasn't lost on him that a promotion to regional sales manager would surely have meant an office with a window. For now, he had a wall. For light, he had the cheap fluorescent tubes humming above him. He hated mediocrity and now felt bathed in it—confined by it in his poorly lit, windowless office—all of it seeming to pour salt on his wounds. He had always been proud of his life's trajectory, his steady rise through the ranks. Working constantly

and driving hard for results had been his standard approach since college, and up until recently, it seemed to be working. No one had ever questioned John's commitment to the job or even his ability to deliver results, but now that didn't seem to be enough. Somewhere along the way, he'd been derailed. He just couldn't seem to break through this last barrier—he didn't even know what it was—that was preventing him from moving up. What was he doing wrong? As the clock closed in on four, he thought of his family. How could he face them? In a few hours, he

would have no choice. It was J.J.'s first home game that night, and Nancy would have made sure that everyone would be taken care of. The home of Saint Nancy—as he jokingly called her—was a warm sanctuary where no child or husband was without proper nutrition and clean socks. He knew she would take the bad news with cheery, uplifting words of support, but it made him no more eager to admit his

failure. Being late to the game? This is what made John most nervous. He was sickened by the irony that his drive for success at Starr Industries had taken an obvious toll on his family. And he knew Nancy well enough to know that Saint Nancy could quickly become Mt. Saint Helens when John fell short as an active participant in the family. Looking down at the papers on his desk, he was jolted out of his thoughts. Round one of the day's

lopsided boxing bout had begun with a sucker-punch the second he entered his office. A single piece of paper lay neatly on his keyboard—a faxed copy of Holly Styles's letter of resignation. John had felt the wind knocked out of him after reading only half a sentence. Holly was John's top-performing sales representative for three years running and an informal leader of

the team. John prayed that Holly had found a job in an unrelated industry, but he immediately began to worry that she had been lured away by a competitor. He began to calculate just how many customers might follow Holly to her new company and how hard it would be to find another salesperson with Holly's skill and ability to build relationships with clients. More than anything else, John worried about how her departure would look in the eyes of senior management—especially since this was the second superstar John had lost in as many months. John checked his desk phone. The voice mail indicator remained dark. Why hadn't Holly returned his

calls? Throughout the day, he had left messages on her cell phone, but so far he was met with only silence. He wracked his brain, trying to recall any warning signs he might have missed. He had no idea she was unhappy, let alone that she had intended to leave. She was making great money and had a number of large deals in the sales pipeline. Nothing made sense. Had he been too hard on her? Pushed her too much? Round two—the 9:00 A.M. teleconference with his team—had been notably awkward. Several people

asked why Holly was not on the call, and John felt a bit guilty playing dumb about it. He hadn't felt prepared to share the bad news yet. He knew there were rumors floating around about other team members shopping their résumés, and he worried that Holly's abrupt departure might fuel the flames of discontent. He would need to approach that announcement carefully. Then again, maybe they all knew. Maybe that's why everyone was so quiet on the call. Did they know their boss was lying? Round three began around 10:30 A.M., as John finally mustered the courage to call his manager, Gail, to

tell her that he had lost yet another top performer. Gail was not the shouting type. John could hear her disappointment in the stilted gaps of silence. He couldn't help feeling like a schoolboy in the principal's office as she began a piercing inquisition about what had happened: What signs of Holly's resignation should he have seen? How was he going to position this with the rest of the team? What was he doing about Holly's top five accounts? None of his answers seemed good enough for Gail, and the twenty- minute conversation felt more like two hours. It was round four with the HR manager that most left him reeling. His career aspirations were slipping

through his fingers. Everything he had been working so hard for all these years and the toll it had taken on his family and his friendships now seemed wasted. He found himself pacing his office when the bell rang for round five. It was the alert chime from his e-

mail. He prayed it was spam. On a day like today, black market pharmaceuticals and shady investment advice would be a welcome change of pace. John clicked on the e-mail icon on his computer and discovered several new messages. One subject line caught his eye: EXIT INTERVIEW RESULTS. Opening the message, he could see the report was for Andy Ward, the sales rep he had lost about six

weeks ago. His HR representative was required to pass along feedback received during Andy's exit interview. John felt ill as he read the results: “I liked the company, and I liked the work, but I didn't like working for John. He didn't make me feel like I was part of a team. It always felt like a competition. I hate

to say this, but John Doyle was the main reason I started looking for another job.” John burned with feelings of betrayal. Andy had fabricated some excuse about wanting to start his own

business, and the whole departure had been very upbeat and civilized. John had even offered to serve as a reference for him. Now he knew the truth, and he wasn't the only one. Surely this report was contributing to John's ever-diminishing career prospects. The pounding of John's heart seemed to shake his whole body. There was a timid knock on his door that he knew to be Cassie's. John closed out of his e-mail program

and tried to compose himself. “What?” Cassie poked her head in. “May I?” John waved an arm, motioning her in. “Sorry to bug you. It's just—I didn't know if you wanted me to do anything,” said Cassie. “About what?” John had been assaulted from so many fronts; he couldn't imagine what she was talking

about. “About Holly,” she said. “A few clients have called. I'm not quite sure what I should be telling them.” Something inside John snapped into place. A surge of adrenaline seemed to seize him, dragging his

body from the dark caverns of his mind. It was time for action. If he was going to survive this day, he'd have to step up and start swinging. “Route her calls to me,” he said. “In the meantime, I need you to print me a list of her clients with

contact information and annual sales.” He grabbed the phone and began to dial. “Year-to-date?” she asked as she made her way to the door. But he had already turned away. With a roll

of her eyes, Cassie left him alone. “Hi. Walter Freeman, please,” he said into the phone. “Yes, John Doyle.” John's knee began to bounce rapidly, as he was put on hold. Walter Freeman was John's oldest customer

and his biggest. John had landed the account as a hungry, naive young kid, right out of college. Walter had relented to John's persistence, mostly because he was entertained by him—impressed by what he called John's “gumption.” In the years that followed, Walter had become something of a mentor and friend. John was a frequent guest at business parties, and Walter had even invited Nancy and him to join him for an overnight cruise on his yacht. But that was years ago. John's rise to sales manager left little time for account management, so he placed Walter's business in the capable hands of his brightest salesman. But six weeks earlier, John had been forced to explain to Walter why Andy would no longer be representing his account. And as luck would have it, Holly had been Andy's replacement. It was time for major damage control. The other line was answered by Walter's assistant. “Walter Freeman's office.” “Hi, Florence. It's John Doyle. Can I speak to Walter?” “I'm afraid not. He's in a meeting.” “Do you know when he'll be out?” “Four thirty, but he won't be able to call you back. He's jumping straight into a taxi to make a six thirty

to Chicago.” John placed the receiver to his forehead, squinting in frustration. “I can leave him a message,” she offered apologetically. John looked at his watch and hung up the phone without leaving a message. He haphazardly tossed the

array of papers from his desk into his briefcase and launched from his chair.

John drummed the steering wheel of his aging BMW. There was no music, only the endless monologue

of his thoughts, drowning out the muffled noise of the city streets surrounding his parked car. The downtown headquarters of Freeman-Davis Group occupied a building that stretched well above John's line of sight. In his parking spot near the main entrance, he began to wonder if this was what a stalker felt like—an uneasy fusion of adrenaline and boredom. He debated how Walter might interpret his unannounced appearance. In the end, though, John figured it

was this kind of assertiveness that cemented their personal and professional relationship in the first place. And the fact was that John couldn't afford to lose Walter's business. Finally, he saw the old man push through the front doors. Walter had to be seventy years old by now, but

he still exuded that special something that made people look his way and ask, “Who's that guy?” John often wondered whether this aura came as a result of Walter's success or whether it was the reason for his success. Either way, it was impressive to behold. John got out of his car just as Walter's taxi pulled up to the curb. “Mr. Freeman!” John shouted. The street noise was louder than he had realized. He began to jog.

“Walter!” The taxi driver was taking the suitcase before Walter noticed John approaching. “My God, Johnny. Is that you?” “How are you, sir?” John asked as Walter offered a hug. “Fine. Just fine,” he replied. “What are you doing on this side of town?” “I was hoping to talk to you.” “No can do, son. Got a plane to catch.” “Let me drive you,” John replied. The taxi driver was about to close the lid of the trunk. He shot dagger eyes at John. “Naw, naw, naw. No

way, man.” John shoved two twenty-dollar bills into the driver's shirt pocket and yanked Walter's suitcase from the

trunk. John eased his car onto the clogged freeway and cursed under his breath. John could feel Walter

watching him. He glanced over and saw the calm grin of a man who expected everything to go his way and was rarely proved wrong. “Sir?” “Why are you really here?” Walter asked, studying John's face. “I just felt really terrible about—” Walter interrupted. “Yeah, yeah. Holly flew the coop. You feel like a schmuck. I heard you the first

time.” Walter had a way of being brutally honest that somehow made you feel completely safe yet completely exposed. “What went wrong with Holly?” “I honestly don't know,” John admitted, his tone a little too defensive for his own taste. “She was

making a boatload of money. Topped all the sales contests. I told her every day she was a superstar. Hell, that's why I wanted her on your account.” “Is she you?” “Excuse me?” “You just listed all the reasons she should have been happy with her job,” Walter explained, “but those

are your reasons. What were her reasons? What were the other kid's reasons?” “Andy?” “Was he you?” “No,” John exclaimed, frustrated. “It's sales, Walter. It's goal, target, lock ‘n’ load.” “To you.” “Well, that's the most effective way.” Walter smiled and watched the lane of cars next to him ease slowly by. John hated the riddles. Why couldn't people just say what they meant? Walter made you work for

everything. John imagined that he made panhandlers answer questions before dropping a dollar bill in their cup. Now Walter's silence was killing him. “Well, isn't it?” John asked. “All I know is you're quickly running out of soldiers, Lieutenant.” The rest of the trip was silent. John wasn't angry, but he was again deep in his own head, orchestrating a

flurry of thoughts and internal debates. As they pulled up to the curb next to the terminal, Walter pulled a business card from his suit pocket, flipped it over, and began to write. “You want to know the secret to success, son?” “A creative CPA?” John joked. Walter finished writing and clicked his pen. “Strategy, diplomas, business plans, loopholes in the

federal tax code—all great. Important stuff. But the lifeblood of any organization is people. Our lives in general are all about people. You got conflict in your life? You're choking off your blood supply. Your success is going to turn blue and fall off. By the looks of it, I'd say it's already looking a bit periwinkle.” Walter handed John the card and climbed out of the car. On the back Walter had written a phone number

followed by the words: Have a Nice Conflict. John groaned at the sight of another damn riddle. Walter pulled his suitcase out of the back seat. “What's this supposed to be?” John asked through the open door. “Tell them I sent you.” “Tell who?” “Thanks for the ride, Johnny,” he said, wearing a wry grin. “Enjoy yours.” With a tap of the roof, Walter turned and disappeared into the crowd.

Chapter Two

It didn't look like much, but the pale, wet hot dog was all John had time for. He accepted it from the vendor with a frown and slathered it with mustard and ketchup. With his cell phone wedged between his ear and shoulder, John was juggling a call with his manager, Gail—his second run-in with her that day. The dust cloud of the previous day had hit her office, and she wasn't happy about it. “You're one of my key sales managers, John,” she said in an even tone he found unnerving, “a key part

of this system. When any part of this system breaks down, it's me who has to explain it to upper management.” “Do you think I wanted to get passed over again?” Gail was silent. John looked at his watch impatiently. He was due for his appointment in less than

fifteen minutes, and all he could do was watch his meal get cold in his hand. He spotted an open spot on a park bench and sat down. “I know you're a skilled salesperson,” she said finally. “One of the best I've worked with. But I'm just

not sure management is where you can be most effective.” “That's not true,” he countered, hoping she wouldn't push him for proof. “There are certain people skills—” “Sales is all about people skills,” he interrupted. She went silent again. John pictured her counting to ten in her head. “John, clearly managing people

requires a certain…finesse. Building relationships where people are motivated. Where uncomfortable situations are handled appropriately.” “I'm working on it,” he said. “How?” He didn't fully know the answer himself. He had called the number Walter had given him but had no

idea what lay before him. He despised operating this way—with his eyes closed, not in control. Have a nice conflict. That's all he had to go on. He checked his watch again. Ten minutes until his appointment. “I gotta go, Gail. Can we talk about this when I get back to the office?” “I'll be in all afternoon,” she sighed. John hung up and exhaled heavily. He finally noticed the man sitting next to him on the bench, enjoying a

hot dog of his own. They exchanged a cordial nod, and John took a long-awaited bite of his cold lunch. “You know,” the man said. “They say the soft stuff is harder than the hard stuff.” “Excuse me?” John asked. “The soft skills. People skills.” John dug deep into his own skill set to keep from telling the man to mind his own business. He took

another bite. “People skills,” John scoffed. “Sore subject,” the man concluded. “Sorry.” “No it's just—” John could feel himself getting wound up. “If you knew this woman, you'd laugh at the

thought of her preaching people skills. ‘Bout as cold and reserved as you can get. She could win the lottery, and you'd be lucky to notice her raise her eyebrows.” John's hot dog fell to the concrete. He was known to talk with his hands, and a lost dog was today's

result. “Of course,” said John, exasperated.

“Oh, jeez. Here, let me buy you another,” the man offered. “Thanks, but that's okay. I don't have much of an appetite anyway.” John stood up, checked his pants for

errant condiments, nodded to the man, and went on his way. “Have a nice day,” the man called out as John headed across the street. Yeah, right, John thought. “Please make yourself comfortable, Mr. Doyle. Dr. Mac should be in any minute,” sang the peppy young

receptionist. As John stepped toward the overstuffed chair closest to the door, his blood pressure rose slightly.

Doctor? He still had no idea what he was in for. There was no name on the door or above the reception desk. The only signage was a bright yellow happy face, a logo far too casual for the surroundings. The office gracing the seventh floor was beautiful and intimidatingly well appointed, but too much so. Real work couldn't possibly be done in this office. “Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water? A soda maybe?” He was tempted to ask for a hot dog. “No thanks.” “All righty then,” she chirped in a voice far too cheery for John's taste. He didn't trust people who put

that much syrup in their voice. Suddenly the door swung open, and John was startled to see the man from the park bench. They

recognized each other instantly. “Well, isn't this a small world,” the man said. “You're Dr. Mac?” John asked. “Mac Wilson. You can call me Mac.” He extended a hand, which John took after a brief struggle getting

himself out of the chair. “John Doyle.” John noticed immediately that Mac possessed the same presence that Walter had—both were larger than

life. Although Mac was average in every physical way, he somehow seemed taller, broader, and more distinguished. Mac led John to his office. No fluorescent tubes in here. Natural light flooded the large room from two

walls of windows overlooking downtown. John scanned the office with equal parts envy and esteem. A large mahogany desk in front of a matching credenza supported a huge flat-screen computer monitor. All the signs of professional success were present and accounted for. On the one free wall, framed diplomas and certificates of achievement shared real estate with personal photos of happy, attractive people, grinning as if they had all just won a game show. John stood near the door, arms crossed. “You look worried,” Mac said. “No, I'm just…I gotta be honest. I have no idea what's going on or what…. I mean, what is this,

therapy?” “Therapy? No. Definitely not therapy.” Mac motioned to the black leather couch. “Would you care to lie

down?” John looked out toward the hall, planning his escape. “I'm kidding,” Mac assured him, smiling broadly. “Why don't we get out of here. Let me buy you lunch.

You must be starving.” “Seriously?” “Truth is, I prefer to be out of this stuffy office as much as possible.”

“You should see my office,” John said. “When your business is people, it makes more sense to be out with the people.” “So you're in the people business,” John concluded, not quite realizing what that meant. “Everyone is in the people business. Name me a line of work where people aren't involved.” John's mind immediately jumped to the challenge, as he searched through his brain. But he came up with

no answer. Mac smiled. Mac's pace made John anxious. Mac never rose above a stroll as he and John walked block after block

on the crowded city streets. John always walked with purpose. The way he saw it, if you were moving, you'd better leave a breeze in your wake. “You married, John?” “Fourteen years.” “Congratulations. That's success.” John shrugged. He hadn't thought of it that way, but after a day like yesterday, he welcomed any

recognition of a win. “And your work? Gail is your boss?” John looked at him, surprised. Mac noted the look and smiled, “I pay attention. My wife calls it being nosey. Comes with the territory,

I guess.” “And what territory is that? What exactly is it you do?” “I do conflict,” Mac replied. “Sounds like a terrible job.” “If you judge the term by its stereotype, sure. But I define conflict by its potential—the potential to be

prevented or its potential to be beneficial. If you see conflict as this big, ugly, five-headed beast, that's what conflict will always look like to you.” “But how do you ‘do’ conflict?” John asked. “Because I'm in control of it. I do conflict. It doesn't do me. I'm not a victim of it.” As John let that sink in, Mac abruptly turned into a small café. John could see why Mac liked the place.

It opened out onto the street corner, and every table seemed to invite in the bustle of people going about their lives. Mac found a table by the window, and they sat down. “Sorry, Doc,” John said. “What you're saying is interesting and all, but you still haven't answered my

question. What do you do? For me?” “What do you want to do?” Mac asked. He noticed the frustration welling up in John's face and

continued, “Let me get right to the point for you.” John wanted to say, Finally! Why couldn't the world communicate in bullet points? “My work is built around understanding people,” Mac said. “Whatever that may look like for an

individual or an organization. I ask, ‘What do you want to do?’ and I help them achieve it by exposing the people part of the equation. I help people master the ultimate skill.” “Soft skills.” “I see you pay attention too.” Mac nodded. “Soft skills—the hardest skills of them all. Something we're

not formally taught growing up. We just have to make do.” “Barreling through life,” said John.

“Like a bull in a china shop. The bull may get through the shop, but at what cost?” John smiled grimly at the analogy. He'd always pictured himself as a bull. He liked the image—strong,

formidable, an icon of success. Until now, he'd never connected the image to the china shop cliché. “What is it costing you, John? Being the bull?” John laughed—a shallow, self-effacing acknowledgment. He suddenly wanted to call up Walter

Freeman and thank him for connecting him to this quirky guy with the funny logo. “That's what I can do for you.” Mac grinned, seeing in John's eyes the shift from suspicion to

anticipation. As the two men ate their late lunch, John recounted the events that had transpired the day before. He

detailed his role at Starr Industries managing ten sales reps who sold Starr products across the state. He boasted about his crew—they almost always hit their numbers—and about the awards he had received over the years. He was ready to move up the ladder, and had been for the past two years. But twice now, he'd been passed over for a promotion—passed over by people who had less experience and weaker numbers. “Sounds like you work hard and get the job done,” Mac said. “Work my tail off,” John stated, proudly. “Unfortunately for you, you're not working in a vacuum. Your approach seems to be piling up a bit of

relationship carnage in its path.” “Look, Doc, sales is a tough business. Sometimes I drive my people pretty hard. I don't let the bean

counters in the home office push me around either. I've been at Starr long enough to know what we need, so when I don't get it, I make some noise. It's like my dad used to say, ‘Sometimes you've got to break a few eggs to make an omelet.’ ” Mac grinned. “The omelets here are amazing, by the way.” John nodded, pretending to care. Mac continued, “I remember you saying, ‘Sales is all about people skills.’ Clearly you're a great

salesperson. So tell me about the people skills you use with potential customers.” “Well, you get to know what they need. What they want. Figure out how to match that with what I have

to sell.” “Exactly,” said Mac. “Okay?” John felt he'd missed the point. “That's an approach you've had success with, and I don't hear any eggs breaking there,” said Mac. He

leaned in. “What if I could help you make your omelets without breaking nearly as many eggs? In other words, what if I could teach you how to manage conflict and build relationships in ways that lead to better results.” “Oh, I get the results,” said John, defensively. “You've hit your sales goals, true. But what about the other results you've been talking about? What

about having a team of excited, motivated sales reps? What about that elusive promotion? I'm seeing a few too many eggshells on your floor.” John leaned back in his chair, sighed, “Okay, fine. I'm sold.” “Ah! The seller becomes the sellee,” joked Mac. “What's this going to cost me?” “Nothing.”

“Come again?” “It's taken care of,” said Mac, flagging down the waitress. “How is that possible?” “Well, Walter Freeman seems to think an awful lot of you.” “He paid for me?” Mac smiled warmly. “He and I have been working together long enough for him to see this as an

investment. I don't think he has a single executive in his organization I haven't spent a little time with at some point.” John was overwhelmed. He wasn't one of Walter's executives; he was just a vendor, a friend. John

didn't have a whole lot of people he could call friends, and this act of selflessness made him regret that. “This adventure is going to take some of that hard work of yours,” Mac continued. “I'd like to meet five

times over the next few weeks.” “In your office?” “No, there are better ways of facilitating change than you and me staring at each other in my office.

We'll mix it up.” “Where at?” Mac laughed, “All right, John. I know you hate being in the dark, but work with me on this. I'll let you

know. Just trust me.” “Trust?” John chuckled. “Guess the hard work is starting already.” “Give my assistant, Jenny, a call later this afternoon. She'll explain the inventories I'd like you to

complete before we get back together. She'll also set up the appointment for us and give you the location.” John nodded and forced a smile to hide his uneasiness. “Ready to have a nice conflict?” asked Mac. “Sure,” John drawled. “I can't wait.” “You're lying, of course, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.” Mac flashed a bright smile and gave John a

playful slap on his back.

Chapter Three

I Can't believe you have to work on a Saturday morning.” John's wife, Nancy, placed a plate of scrambled eggs in front of him while he sat with their kids at the

kitchen table. “You have to work?” asked John Jr., their eight-year-old son. “It's not work, J.J.,” explained John. “I have a doctor's appointment.” “Are you sick, Daddy?” asked three-year-old Emma. Nancy took her seat at the table between the two kids. She reached out and gave each of their arms a

gentle squeeze. “No, Daddy's fine.” She shot John a look. He didn't need the scolding. He had already regretted his word choice. “It's a work doctor. I'm just

getting some extra help.” “Like a tutor?” asked J.J. “Yeah, I guess. Like a tutor.” Nancy frowned. “I just don't understand why it has to be on the weekend. You work hard enough as it is.

The weekend is our time.” “I know it is,” said John. “I'm just—” He looked away, shaking his head, unable and unwilling to complete his thought. He still hadn't built up

the nerve to admit to Nancy that he'd lost the promotion again. Now the confession seemed inevitable. “What's going on, hon?” asked Nancy gently. John looked into her eyes and recognized her genuine concern. He couldn't ignore the soft urgency in her

look. John shifted in his chair, “I had my meeting with HR.” She instantly put the pieces together—his distance, the sour mood. “I'm so sorry, John.” “What?” asked J.J. John exhaled deeply. “I was hoping to get a new job at work, but it didn't happen.” “Why didn't you tell me?” asked Nancy, warmly. John looked away. She stood and moved behind his chair, wrapping her arms around his neck in an

embrace. “It's going to be fine, honey,” said Nancy. “It's just a dumb promotion. We'd love you if you were the

janitor.” John stood, breaking Nancy's hug. “That's not the point, Nance. That promotion is important to me.” “I know it is. I just want you to know that we're here for you, no matter what. Starr Industries is just a

job, you know.” “It's my life.” “It's a part of your life. Just like we're part of your life—a part I wish you'd remember a little more

often,” pleaded Nancy. “We care about you.” “I'm running late. I have to go,” said John, taking his plate to the sink. “Is this appointment of yours going to help you with your anger issues?” “I don't have anger issues,” replied John sharply, his tone countering his words. He retreated from the

room, but Nancy trailed close behind. “I'm just trying to help. I want you to be happy,” said Nancy. “I'm just wondering if the anger may be

contributing to your, you know, struggles at your job.” John tried to silence her with a look. It didn't take. Nancy continued, delicately. “I see you work so hard. I wonder if the stress of it all causes you maybe

to rub people the wrong way.” “Well, who knows?” said John, roughly. “That's why I'm going. On a Saturday. Stealing our ‘us’ time.” “John—” “I'm sorry. I'm just frustrated.” John turned to her and saw the concern in her eyes. It softened something

within him. “I feel like there's so much I want to do with my life—so much I'm capable of. I've been told since high school I was a leader—that I can take charge of a situation and get people moving. That's what gets my blood pumping. But here I am, feeling like some dolt, stuck in the same job for four years, with my future looking bleaker every day.” “John, you know that I love you and want you to be happy. Got that?” She took him into a tight embrace. “I know, honey. That's one thing I know for sure.” “You go see your conflict doctor, and we'll be here when you get home.” John gave Nancy a peck on the cheek and left her standing in the doorway, a worried smile on her face. “Turn right on Fairhaven; proceed to destination,” said the female voice with a tinge of English accent.

John welcomed the reminder from the GPS on his dashboard. He had spent most of the drive distracted— his mind awash with thoughts of his wife and kids. Nancy had never understood the ambition that pulsed through his veins. It was like a foreign language to her. Sure, she had her interests. In fact, now that Emma was in preschool, Nancy had started putting herself out there again, looking for freelance work. But it looked more like a hobby to John. Nancy was just missing the drive he knew was crucial to really succeed in the business world. Maybe if she understood that, she wouldn't make him feel so guilty about working so hard. “Arriving at destination,” said his dashboard. John looked up at the sign in front of him: Fairhaven Village Apartments. 1 & 2 Bedroom Units

Available for Lease. Could this be right? He checked the address against what was in the e-mail from Jenny, Dr. Mac's assistant. Yup. Everything appeared to match up. The building looked more like a hotel circa 1940, with large, stone walls that had long since been

painted. At four stories tall, John guessed it housed around fifty apartments. The tall, ornate ironwork that separated the building's atrium from the street hinted at its past glory. Now the dilapidated structure was likely home to struggling single moms, immigrant families, and a few college kids. He thought it unlikely that Mac called this place home. So what was he doing here? He repeated Mac's words to himself: Just trust me. As John walked through the gate into the open-air center of the building, he could hear a baby's cry over

the sounds of daytime television. The modest pool in the center was deserted except for a small family of ducks. There was no sign of Dr. Mac. To his immediate right, John noticed a door labeled Management Office. He stepped inside the small, wood-paneled waiting room and was assaulted by the smells of curry, cigarette smoke, and flowery perfume. He pressed the illuminated button next to a Ring for Service sign and waited. After what felt like an eternity, a frosted glass window slid open. The sixty-something woman behind

the glass was startling to behold in her heavy-handed makeup and ruffled orange blouse. “Morning, sugar. Can I help you?” she asked.

“God, I hope so,” John replied. “I'm supposed to meet a Mac Wilson here.” “Oh, you've come to the right place, darlin'. I'm Dolly. Macky's my nephew. He's putzin' around in the

boiler room, I think. Big metal door at the bottom of the stairs.” She motioned to the stairwell door behind him. As John made his way down the dank concrete staircase, he heard a muffled pounding echoing below.

He couldn't help but question the doctor's sanity. Then again, maybe he should be questioning his own sanity for going along with this. He tried to imagine Walter Freeman descending these stairs. Would the old titan of industry have been forced to knock on this massive rusty door like a thirsty laborer trying to get in to some dodgy speakeasy? But here it was, his turn. The door looked too substantial for a simple knock, so he used the edge of a

quarter he pulled from his pocket, which made a distinct clicking sound, one he hoped could be heard over the hammering and music coming from within. After several taps, the hammering stopped, and the door creaked open. It took a few moments for John

to recognize Mac in his tattered jeans and paint-splattered Mötley Crüe T-shirt, a stark contrast from the tailored black suit he had last seen him wearing. “Mr. Doyle!” said Mac grinning. “Welcome to my weekend office.” “Morning, Doc,” said John, tentatively. He entered the dark, cavernous room, the belly of the beast.

Pipes and ductwork trailed away like veins from the giant furnace and boiler. The equipment looked ancient, but the hot glow of flame denoted signs of life. Mac led him to a separate workshop off to the side. From the glow of the bare light bulbs that hung from the ceiling, John could see racks of paint cans, a bin with scraps of wood, a ladder hanging from the ceiling, and three matching Buick hubcaps nailed to the wall. “Love what you've done with the place,” said John. “Well, my regular designer was out of town when I moved in,” Mac retorted with a wink. “Actually I

inherited this building from my grandfather about fifteen years ago. Still do a lot of the routine maintenance and the occasional repair or update.” “So what now? Is this where you strap me down and beat the conflict out of me?” “What happened to that promise of trust?” said Mac, grinning. “You have to admit that it's a little dungeonesque down here.” Mac looked around. “I guess you're right. I've spent so many years in this workshop, I don't even think

about it. When my grandpa ran the place, I was here helping him out after school, on weekends, during summer breaks—I practically grew up here from middle school, all the way through graduate school.” As Mac spoke, he screwed a pipe fitting onto a long, flat appliance he had resting across two

sawhorses. John didn't recognize it and couldn't make out any of the labeling on the cardboard box and packing materials littering the floor. Mac went to one end and motioned to the other, “Can you grab the other side? I need to flip this over.” John followed orders. “Thanks.” John gave up trying to identify the appliance. He was more interested in finding out why he was in the

bowels of this crumbling building. He crossed his arms and leaned roughly against the cluttered workbench. Mac eyed him and put down the instruction manual he was flipping through. “A lot of what I know about conflict I learned right here in this building,” said Mac. “Oh, yeah? How's that?”

Mac motioned around him, “It's a virtual petri dish of conflict.” John pulled away from the workbench. “Don't worry. You won't get any on you,” laughed Mac. “I just mean that over the years, being around

this place, I've seen everything you could imagine when it comes to conflict between people.” “Why? Is it haunted?” asked John, only half-kidding. “No.” Mac smiled. “But when my grandpa bought this bankrupt hotel in 1970, he had no idea what he

was getting into. He had just retired after thirty-five years in banking and figured converting the old place into apartments would be a great investment and keep him busy. He wasn't exactly the rocking chair type. And I'm sure it looked good on paper. But the ol' Fairhaven Hotel was built in 1939. Walls were as thick as tissue paper. A tenant couldn't sneeze without hearing ‘bless you’ from the next-door neighbor.” “So you've seen your share of noise complaints.” “Ha! First thing I did when I took over was reinforce all the walls between the units. Cost me a

fortune.” “I can imagine.” “It was worth it, though,” said Mac. “One of my favorite ways to deal with conflict is to prevent it, keep

it from even happening. Getting those walls fixed is a great example of the benefits of conflict. There was an issue, people felt strongly enough about it to raise the issue, and in the end, everyone is happier with the outcome. My tenants have a better living experience, and I have a more valuable investment.” Mac screwed another PVC elbow to the mystery appliance, “Even this thing is an example of great outcomes of conflict.” “Yeah? What is it?” “Tankless water heater. I'm installing them in each of the units to replace the boiler. The old girl needs a

lot of work. Expensive work. And after years of complaints about not enough hot water, I figured out I can modernize the system in a way that makes everyone happy and pays for itself in the long run. Conflict can be an opportunity to step back, assess the situation, find creative solutions.” “So how come your grandfather never reinforced the walls?” “He wanted to. He just got too old to take on the project. And by that time, I was making my way in the

business world.” “So he just took the complaints for all those years?” “He did. But it was never a problem for him. He was a master conflict manager. His tenants loved him.

He just knew how to deal with it all.” “And how was that?” asked John, praying for a silver bullet answer. Mac smiled. “Well, that depends.” John slumped back. “You're killing me, Doc.” “Seriously. It's an important point, John. The answer is, ‘It depends.’ There's no one-size-fits-all

answer,” explained Mac. “The way he'd deal with apartment 3B would be completely different from how he'd deal with 4A or 2F.” “Let me guess,” said John. “Back to people skills.” “Turns out the skill that made him a successful bank manager for three decades was the most important

skill he needed as the landlord here. It takes the ability to work well with people—to help people feel worthwhile and meet them where they're at. It's the only way you're ever going to influence them. He made it a point to build relationships wherever he could and taught me to do the same.” Mac wiped his hands on a rag and moved toward the doorway. “Check this out,” he said as he

disappeared into the boiler room. John found Mac standing in front of the big metal door, looking at the large plaque that hung above it. In

hand-carved letters, it read: “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.—Theodore Roosevelt.” “Every time my grandpa would leave to interact with the people upstairs, this would serve as a

reminder,” said Mac with a flash of melancholy. Mac was surrounded by traces of his grandfather, but this plaque appeared to be the most significant to him. John sensed the emotional moment but didn't quite know what to do with it. “Good stuff,” was all he

could come up with. Mac smiled, still staring at the plaque. “I think so. Teddy Roosevelt was his favorite U.S. president. He

read books about him, had a big framed photo on the wall next to his desk. He quoted the guy all the time. But this quote was the most meaningful to him. This was the one he drilled into me all those summers and weekends growing up.” Mac finally looked at John, waiting for him to make eye contact. “You see, my Grandpa knew that it

took a lot more than being good at a job to achieve success.” Mac returned to his workshop, letting those words sink in. John recalled the countless times he had

bragged about his skills as a salesman to himself and to others. It had served as a “get out of jail free” card for him for years. How many times had people at work let him get away with his rougher edges because he was a star salesman? John frowned as he thought about it. Whatever the number, it was clear to him that being the star had lost much of its cachet over the past few years. He missed it and wanted the feeling back. And if hanging out in a seventy-year-old basement with Dr. Mötley Crüe on a Saturday morning was going to help him regain a little shine, then so be it. John found Mac back at work on the water heater. “Okay, so it's all about getting along with people,”

said John. “Sounds easier said than done. Or is it just me who's banging my head against a wall?” “No. You're not alone, John. Working with people can be tricky. Even for me. My grandfather was the

best I've ever seen, and even he struggled. Of course, here, he could just evict the person,” said Mac with a wink. “Hard to evict a wife or a boss,” said John. “True. That's why it's important to always be working to get better at dealing with people. Getting along

with people is not always easy, but I can help make it a whole lot easier than it is now.” “Wish it didn't have to be so frustrating,” said John. “Why do you suppose it is, John?” “Because most people are insane,” laughed John. Mac didn't mirror John's smile. “Seriously. Why do you think people are so hard to understand?” John thought a second. “Because we have no idea what's going on inside their head.” Mac smiled broadly. “Precisely.” He held up the instruction manual for the tankless water heater. “You

know, it's funny—whenever you buy anything new, it almost always comes with an owner's manual. Yet with people, who are much more complicated and dynamic than any piece of equipment, we've got to figure them out on our own. We don't get an owner's manual for our relationships.” “That's what you need to put together: an instruction manual for people,” said John. “Well, in a way it already exists. Remember those assessments I had you take?” “Then what are we supposed to do to figure people out? Make them take a test?” asked John. “That would be nice, but no. The key is trying to identify why people do what they do. The challenge is

that most of what we have to go on involves watching what they do. We can see their behavior, but it's more worthwhile to understand their reason for using the behavior—their intent or motivation. Take the behavior of ambition. I know this is something you find important. But why is it important to you?” “Ambition? It just is. Always has been,” replied John. “Okay. Good to note. But think about it. What is it about being ambitious that appeals to you?” John thought for a moment, “I like the feeling of being the best at something. I like having a goal and then

beating it. I guess ambition helps push me to get those things.” “Perfect. So for you, the use of ambition as a behavior helps you to fulfill your motivation of being the

best and achieving your goals.” “I suppose so, yeah.” “So let's look at another example of ambition. Do you remember General Norman Schwarzkopf?” “Sure. Stormin' Norman,” John said. “Best-known American general since World War II. Known to be aggressive, direct, and

confrontational. But those are behaviors. His motivation might surprise you. While you may use ambition to be the best and reach your goals, Schwarzkopf used ambition for entirely different reasons. Did you know he was so disgruntled with the state of the army after Vietnam that he almost left the military? But after much soul searching, he realized he needed to stay. He figured that if he moved up the ranks, he could help the army and restore its reputation in the eyes of the American public. The guy was tough but caring—always thinking about the welfare of his troops. Schwarzkopf used ambition in support of others.” “So what are you saying? My ambition is selfish?” “Not at all,” said Mac. “I'm just making the distinction that ambition is a behavior. It's a tool that both

you and Schwarzkopf use effectively. But you're using it for different reasons than he did.” Mac went to a battered metal tool chest that stood nearly five feet tall. He slid out the top drawer and

removed a large, flathead screwdriver. “Take this screwdriver. One tool, but I use it to open paint cans and turn screws. I even use it as a chisel in a pinch. One tool—several different motivations for using it. So in the case of people, we can look at their behavior, but it's not the whole story, is it?” “You can't judge a book by its behavior,” said John. “Precisely,” said Mac. “Behaviors are the tools we choose and use to support our self-worth.” “What do you mean by ‘self-worth?’ ” “Our underlying motivation or set of values. Those things that make us feel good about ourselves and

make us feel that we're contributing.” “And I feel good about myself when I'm getting things done and excelling and being in charge,” offered

John somewhat defensively. “So you most often will pick the tool that you feel will be most successful at getting you those feelings.” “Makes sense,” John agreed as he took a seat on a creaky stool. “Excellent. So let's look at the results of one of the assessments I had you complete.” Mac poked around

his messy workshop, looking under cardboard scraps until he found his briefcase hidden under a pile of bubble wrap. From inside, he removed a paper. “Remember this?” John instantly recognized the diamond-shaped pattern of squares. “Sure. That was my ranking of

strengths, right?” “For the sake of this conversation, you can look at personal strengths like behaviors. They represent the

different ways a person can interact with others to achieve self-worth. When a person tries one of these

strengths and has success with it, he uses it more often than the others. Other strengths might have rendered poor results, and so he might tend to use those less and less. Over time, we all develop a set of go-to strengths. They become our modus operandi.” “Okay. So what's my MO?” asked John, with a mischievous grin. “Well, based on the way you prioritized your strengths, you are probably most comfortable operating in

the realm of self-confidence, competitiveness, and, of course, our old friend, ambition. You also like to be fair, quick to act, and principled.” “Are those good?” asked John. “All of the strengths are valuable, so it's not a question of whether they are good or bad,” replied Mac.

“These are the strengths you identified as being most like you and therefore the ones you use often to boost your sense of self-worth. You're most likely to rely on these top six because you're most comfortable with them in your interactions with others.” “I'd say that's true,” agreed John. “Now down here, at the bottom of your chart, you placed cautious, tolerant, caring, socializer,

adaptable, and experimenter. I would venture to guess that it can be difficult for you to use those strengths and not much fun when you feel like you have to.” “Horrible,” replied John. “What about all those strengths in the middle? Those were kinda tough to

differentiate.” “That would make sense. We all have a good sense for the strengths we're most comfortable with and

those that are most unlike us, but the strengths in the middle—they actually offer the greatest opportunities.” “Opportunities? How do you figure?” asked John, intrigued. “Let me ask you a fundamental question, John,” said Mac, as he sat on the stool next to John. “Do you

believe we choose our own behavior?” John thought for a moment, “I guess. Sure.” “Okay. Let's make the question a little tougher,” continued Mac. “Do you believe that you always have

the ability to choose your behavior?” “I don't know. I know it doesn't always feel as if I have a lot of choices.” Mac studied him for a minute. He then hopped off his stool and held up the screwdriver, “Remember

our tool analogy?” “Behaviors are like tools,” said John. “Right!” Mac tapped the tool chest with the handle. “So let's say this old tool chest represents me and

all the behaviors or strengths I have to work with.” “Gee, Mac. You could use a coat of paint,” said John. Mac smiled. “What? And cover up all this charm? I've had this thing for thirty years.” He gave the giant

tool chest a loving pat on the side. “So in the top drawers of this beauty,” continued Mac, “I keep the tools I use most—screwdrivers,

pliers, adjustable wrenches, and my two favorite hammers.” Mac opened and closed the top two metal drawers. “They're all here, right at eye level. Easy to get at and I use them often.” Mac opened a lid on the top of the chest and pulled out a leather tool belt loaded with tools, “In fact, I

even have my tool belt that I keep with me all the time here. These tools are like my top strengths—they're always with me when I'm working on a project upstairs. Think back to your top three strengths: self- confident, competitive, and ambitious. I bet those feel like they're right in your back pocket, ready to

whip out at a moment's notice.” “Absolutely,” agreed John. Mac returned the tool belt and continued, “The tools I use less frequently are in these middle drawers:

wrench and socket sets, crowbar, screen repair tools, and everything related to working with electricity are all here in the middle. I can use these tools when I need them, but I'm just not as confident with them as some of the others.” Mac crouched down and slid open the bottom two drawers. “I keep the tools I use the least here in the

bottom. For the most part, they're all of my plumbing tools and supplies. I hate to do plumbing, and I'm not good at it. In fact, I've made quite a few messes over the years trying to do plumbing projects. It's just not something I'm good at.” “So those are like your bottom strengths,” said John. “Exactly,” said Mac. He stood and kicked the bottom drawers closed. “So what does your toolbox have to do with choosing behaviors?” asked John. “Do you see any locks on that chest?” “No.” “So no matter what I'm faced with, I have the ability to choose the right tool for the job.” Mac returned

to his stool. “Let's say I get a call from a tenant who needs a repair. The quickest, easiest thing to do would be to grab my tool belt and run upstairs. But if I don't know what I'm dealing with, I may be unprepared to deal with the real issue. And if I go ahead and force myself to use whatever I happen to have in my tool belt, it may take me twice as long to fix the problem. Worse yet, I may do some damage.” “So you're saying if I go into every situation using my top strengths every time, I'm causing conflict?”

said John. “Your go-to strengths serve you well. After all, you wouldn't keep using them if they didn't work for

you. But it's important to remember that you have a whole tool chest of other options that may get you better results from time to time,” Mac grabbed John's strength chart again and pointed to the center area. “All these strengths here in the center of your list—all these tools in your middle drawers—you don't hate using these. They're okay. These are your best opportunities to take on a situation or a relationship a little more prepared and with a little more deliberate choice.” “Sounds like work,” groaned John. “I thought you liked a challenge.” “I do. But I also like to get things done quickly.” “Does using a strength that's easy for you but ends up damaging a relationship with an important person

in your life help you reach your goals quicker?” John felt that question tear right through him. “And the fact is,” Mac continued, “it doesn't have to be challenging or time-consuming. Like anything

else, once you know how to do it and what to look for, it becomes second nature. You start to see people not by what they do on the outside but by what you know is important to them. By what you know gives them their own self-worth. People are most effective when they choose a strength that enhances the self- worth of others while helping them achieve their own goals—their own self-worth.” “Sounds like a win-win,” said John. “Sounds like a productive, rewarding relationship,” agreed Mac. “I'm guessing you like being in charge,

John.” “Of course. Who doesn't?”

Mac made a pained face. John instantly understood his error. Seeing the world from another person's perspective was going to take some effort. “Sorry,” said John. “What I meant to say was, ‘Yes, I, personally, love being in charge.’ ” “That's what I thought you said,” said Mac with a smile. “All I'm asking you to do is take control—be in

charge of your behavior. When you act in whatever way feels easy or convenient, you're not taking charge of your actions. When you choose a behavior that's right for the situation and the person you're with, you're in control of yourself. You're running the show.” John laughed, “You sure know how to pull all my right levers.” “I'm just speaking your language—by knowing what's important to you.” “So where's the line between speaking my language and manipulation?” asked John with a sly grin. “Is the way I'm communicating with you making sense to you? Am I getting through to you and giving

you what you want from our time together?” “Absolutely.” “Then I've achieved each of our goals by choosing behavior that works for both of us. It's win-win,

right?” asked Mac. “If I was in Japan and I knew how to speak Japanese, shouldn't I do so? Wouldn't I get better results? Is that manipulation?” “No.” “Not at all. It's respect if it's anything,” said Mac. “When we choose, we get to be in control of our

outcomes.” “What if you choose the wrong behavior?” asked John. “It's going to happen, sure. And there are consequences that come with the choices we make. With

choice comes responsibility and accountability. When we choose to act a certain way, we also choose the result that comes from doing so. But more important, we're influencing what happens in our relationships, so we can be more in control of our lives and our careers, which, I think, is why we're working together.” John nodded, letting Mac's words sink in. He thought about his mother, which he seldom did when

facing issues in the world. It was always his father's gems that felt branded on his brain. “It's funny,” said John finally. “Growing up, my mother always used to say the same thing to me every time I left the house: ‘Make good choices, son.’ ” “Smart lady,” said Mac with a smile. “If we make good choices, we are more likely to have good

outcomes. Poor choices—or worse, no choices—make us more likely to get poor results in our relationships, and that usually means we're not getting what we want.” Just then, the old rotary phone hanging on the wall rang loudly, startling John. “Sorry about that. Had to make the ringer power tool–proof.” Mac answered. “Hello, Dolly. What's

up?” As he listened, his smile dissolved. “No, don't do anything. I'll be right up.” He hung up the phone and turned to John. “I have a tenant complaint to deal with.” “What? A noise complaint?” kidded John. “Yes, actually.” “So much for extra drywall.” “Want to join me?” asked Mac. “Why? Do you need backup?” John was joking, but Mac didn't return the smile. He was already on the move. John wondered if Mac

was busy packing his mental tool belt.

“I'm calling the damn cops.” The phrase seemed out of place coming from the short, frail, elderly woman Mac introduced as Mabel Grimes. John guessed she was in her nineties but she looked to have the energy of a woman half her age. Mac sat down with her in the lobby of the management office. “Mabel, tell me what the problem is.” John tried to look inconspicuous lurking in the doorway. “It's that hoodlum from next door,” snapped Mabel. “I swear, he's trying to make me go deaf with that

horrible noise.” “Kraig playing his guitar again?” Mac looked over at Dolly, who watched from the sliding window

smoking a cigarette. They shared a frown. Mabel sighed dramatically, “I traveled all through the night coming home from visiting my grandkids,

and I don't think it's too much to expect some peace and quiet when I get into my own apartment.” “Not at all, Mabel. I completely understand why you're upset; I'll deal with it right away.” With that,

Mac stood. “Okay?” “Thank you, Theodore,” said Mabel. Two minutes later, John was following Mac up the staircase. As they passed the level 2 door, John

couldn't hold it back any longer, “Theodore?” “What do you want?” said Mac, “She's ninety-two.” “So what's the story with this Kraig guy?” asked John. “Kraig Gannon. 3F. He's a really nice kid. But he's in a heavy metal band. He's actually a pretty talented

guitar player and songwriter, but it's not exactly Miss Mabel's cup of tea. She's the Fairhaven's longest- running tenant. My grandpa rented to her in 1979 when she was still teaching middle school.” They reached the third-floor fire door and stepped into the hall. Instantly John could hear the muffled

guitar licks blaring. Mac was right; Kraig was good—but loud. Standing in front of apartment 3F, Mac knocked. The music continued. After a moment, Mac knocked

again, this time more loudly. Still the guitar squealed with hyperactive intensity. From his back pocket, Mac produced the big flathead screwdriver, held it up to John with a conspiratorial smile. He banged on the door with the handle end. “Hey, Kraig, it's Mac. Open up.” The guitar stopped, and the apartment door swung open. The twenty-something man who filled the

doorway glistened with piercings. Tattoos covered his torso like graffiti on an old New York subway car. It took a moment for John to realize he was only wearing his boxers and socks. Kraig smiled broadly, “Hey! What's up, Mac Daddy? Nice Crüe shirt.” “Thought you'd like that,” said Mac. “Kraig, this is my friend, John Doyle.” “Hey, what's up, man?” said Kraig, warmly, as they shook hands. “Hi,” said John. John laughed to himself. He was not expecting this mutant with the scraggly black hair to be so friendly. “Can we come in for a minute?” asked Mac. “Sure, man. Can I get you guys a beer?” “No, thanks,” Mac said, as he and John stepped inside Kraig's apartment. The threadbare pink and gold

plaid sofa was winning the fight against the faded orange stripes of the recliner. A small television balanced on a stool below a framed poster of AC/DC's Angus Young, in full concert strut. In the corner, a five-foot-high speaker stack still hissed. Kraig returned his Union Jack–painted electric guitar to its stand and disappeared around the corner, “Make yourself at home,” he called out. “Sounding good, Kraig. How's the band?”

“Yeah, man! Killer news. We just got that festival gig I was telling you about,” Kraig reappeared, beer in hand. “Can you believe it? Ten thousand screaming idiots have the chance to consume our tasty tunage.” Kraig fell into his couch and dropped his feet on the coffee table—a weathered old door stretched

across cinder blocks. “That's great news, Kraig. I know how hard you've been working. That's going to be great for you guys,”

said Mac, showing genuine excitement. “We're so fired up.” “Unfortunately, Ms. Grimes would rather skip the preshow,” said Mac. “What?” asked Kraig dumbfounded. Mac nodded to the speakers. “I know you don't mean any harm, but we've talked about this before.

You've gotta keep it down or use your headphones. You're gonna give Miss Grimes a heart attack.” “Dude, I'm so sorry. I had no idea Able Mabel was back in town. I guess I got carried away after

hearing the news—broke out into my own private concert. Honestly, man. I thought she was still visiting her grandkids in Chicago.” “Well, she's back. And the noise is really bothering her.” “Oh, man,” said Kraig running his fingers nervously through his wild black hair. “She must be steaming.

I'll go talk to her. I should go talk to her, right?” “That'll be fine, Kraig, but, hey—put a shirt and pants on before you go over,” said Mac with a wink. Kraig looked down and realized what he was (actually was not) wearing. “Of course. You got it, boss

man.” Kraig stood, gave Mac a handshake with a shoulder-to-shoulder half-embrace. “Thanks for the heads-up. I'll keep it on the down-low the rest of the day. We've got rehearsal in an hour anyway.” “Thanks for understanding. And hey, congrats on the festival gig,” said Mac as they stepped back into

the hallway. As John and Mac made their way back down, John said, “Well, that was tame.” “Sorry to disappoint. You were expecting blood and guts?” “A little, yeah,” said John with a smile. “Having a nice conflict takes some guts, but no blood. You're going to have to stop seeing conflict as a

battle if our time together is going to be productive at all.” “I know,” said John with a nod. “But could you even call what just happened ‘conflict’?” “It was if you consider how those conversations could have gone. What you saw was conflict nipped in

the bud before it escalated into something ugly. Mabel certainly was in conflict. She's normally a very patient, soft-spoken woman.” “She looked like a firecracker to me.” “ ‘Cause she was in conflict. Her self-worth was being threatened. And to Mabel Grimes, that looks

like someone ready to put on the gloves and jump in the ring. My job was to keep a misunderstanding from becoming an unsalvageable war between two people who need to coexist. Every tenant is an important relationship to me—personally and financially. It is in my best interest and theirs to maintain a positive relationship. The goal wasn't about winning a battle. It was about bringing everyone back to a state of feeling good—maintaining their self-worth.” “So how'd you do it?” asked John. “You tell me.” “I don't know.” “Well, what did you notice?” asked Mac.

John replayed in his mind the interactions he had just witnessed. “You were different with each of them,” said John. “Okay. How so?” “With Mabel, you just listened and promised to handle it right away. And then with Kraig, you kind of

hung out and chatted about his music before dropping the hammer.” “Two different people. Two different approaches,” said Mac. “And in the end, all three of us are

satisfied. And as for you, if you want blood and guts, rent a movie.” Mac slapped John on the shoulder as he opened the stairwell door for him. Mac walked John back to John's car in the bright midday sun. John was glad their meeting hadn't gone

too late. He was still conscious of his family's disappointment that morning. He really hadn't been present for them for the past few weeks—maybe longer—and needing to “work” on a Saturday wasn't helping. Now it looked as if part of the day would be salvageable. “Do you understand your homework?” asked Mac, as John dug in his pocket for his keys. “I think so. Get feedback from a few people about some of my top strengths,” answered John. “Right. Now, John, it's important that people feel comfortable enough to truly be honest about this. You

want a true assessment, and it's up to you to create that space of trust and honesty. Feedback is a gift. All you need to offer in return is your thanks. Try not to be defensive or offer any explanations.” “The only thing I don't understand is the negative part. If these are my strengths, why am I asking for

examples where they felt they were negative?” asked John. “Well, remember what we talked about? Often we try to use strengths that aren't suitable for the

situation. If I have a screw to tighten, I'm going to cause damage if all I brought was my hammer. We're looking for feedback from both sides of the coin. We want to know when a particular strength was seen as a positive and times when that strength became a negative.” “So like when my self-confidence was misused?” “Precisely. And sometimes a personal strength can cause conflict when it's overdone,” said Mac. “What do you mean ‘overdone?’ ” asked John. “It's like our friend upstairs, Kraig. Our strengths may sound like beautiful music to us, but they can

come across as too loud or overdone to others, like Mabel. Kraig's guitar would have sounded just as good to him in his headphones, but he chose to turn up the volume and let it fly.” John sighed, starting to feel deflated. He moved to the back of his car and leaned against the trunk. “So

you're saying my strengths are the cause of all my problems?” “Look, John, I'm not saying your strengths are the problem. But it's important to know which strengths

we favor and understand that those strengths, when overdone or misapplied, can become weaknesses.” Mac joined him by the trunk of John's car and continued, “Let's look at self-confidence. What would

that look like to people if it was overdone—if the volume was too high?” “Cocky?” “Sure. Cocky, arrogant. It's not your intent, of course. But is it possible that some of your conflict at

work happens because other people don't see your strengths the way you intend them to be seen? Self- confidence is at the top of your list of strengths. Do you think you ever turn up the volume too much on that?” John smiled grimly. “Some of the people in the office probably think I've got my volume jacked up to

11.” John thought about the times when he had been accused of being a little too proud—too sure of

himself. His standard rebuttal had always been: “It ain't braggin' if I can do it.” He thought about all the people at work who might be misinterpreting his behavior and seeing the overdone versions. “So what about my other strengths. What would those look like?” “Well let's think about them. What would competitive be if taken too far?” asked Mac. John thought for a moment. He found it hard to separate his intention from another person's perception of

it. “Maybe aggressive or combative?” “Sure,” said Mac. “What about ambitious or quick to act?” “I guess those could be seen as ruthless and rash. And principled could be seen as stubborn, maybe, or

unyielding. What about fair?” asked John. “Well, fair is about being impartial and equitable. When overdone, that can start to look cold and

unfeeling,” said Mac. John let the list of negative words roll around in his head. He had often struggled to understand why

people always seemed to misinterpret his good intentions. Now the issue was crystallizing for him, and the jagged points were hurting his brain. When he saw himself as “ambitious,” others might be seeing the same thing as “ruthless.” How many Miss Mabels had come down to HR to complain about his volume levels at work? How many people on his team saw him as stubborn or rash? How many of them were simply tolerating him or avoiding him altogether? “Wow, Doc,” sighed John. “When you look at it like that, it's no wonder I turn so many people off.” Mac smiled warmly. “Don't get down on yourself, John. The good news about overdone strengths is that

all they require is gaining more volume control over the positive strengths you already have. It's not some weakness you have to rid yourself of. People are almost always trying to do good, and they're usually seeking feelings of self-worth. It's true for you, which means it's true for others too.” “So when I find another person's behavior annoying…” “Look for the strength behind it. What is this person overdoing? What is he or she really trying to

accomplish? Most likely, the intent is not to annoy you. If you can find the strength lurking behind the perceived weakness, you've discovered insight into that person that may help you understand him or her better—preventing potential conflict by avoiding misperceptions of that behavior.” “Wow,” said John, letting this realization sink in. He hated to admit that he found most other people's

behavior annoying—almost to the point of doubting himself. He'd often thought maybe his expectations were too high or he just lacked patience. But now he was faced with an alternate explanation. When he felt impatience with his boss or with Gail's tendency to nitpick or when he felt smothered by his wife's attention, perhaps he needed to look behind those behaviors and understand their intent. Mac stepped away from the car. “All it takes is insight and practice and the realization that you have a

choice—and that's why we're working together, right?” John offered his hand and a smile, “That we are.” Mac took his hand, and they shook, “Enjoy the rest of your weekend. And don't forget to do your

homework.” “Yes, Professor Mac.” John felt a tinge of dread. He was being asked to start collecting some honest feedback. He'd never

cared much what other people thought of him. Now he was being forced to ask the question outright. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. Perhaps not caring was just a way of avoiding finding out.

Chapter Four

John hesitated just outside the doorway to Gail's office. What the hell was he thinking? He was beginning to second-guess his decision to start this feedback process with Gail. The truth was, he hadn't been thinking at all, and now the inertia of his decision was propelling him into her office, feeling unprepared. It was at that moment that Gail rushed out of her office and nearly ran into him. It took both of them by

surprise. “Oh!” she yelped. It may have been the first time John had witnessed an emotion out of her. She

regained her composure, “John. What are—” “Hey. I, uhh, I was just coming to see you,” “I'm afraid I'm neck deep in it right now. I'm working to get everything in order for that meeting with

operations this afternoon.” “That's fine. We can talk later. I just needed to get some information from you,” said John, feeling

relieved. Gail was intrigued by John's uncharacteristic awkwardness. She studied him over her frameless

glasses, “I was going to grab a quick bite down at the commissary. Would you want to join me?” “The commissary?” asked John, surprised. The building's eatery had been dubbed a last resort by most

who had the misfortune of eating there. “Sure, why not? Let's live dangerously.” John paid the commissary cashier and found Gail at a corner table near the windows. He marveled at

the simple green salad before her. In the years he'd worked with her, he'd never seen her eat anything else. After consuming two cherry tomatoes from her plate, she eyed him. “What did you want to discuss?” “Me, actually.” Gail's head cocked slightly. “I got myself involved in something that I'm pretty sure is going to help me out around here,” said John. Gail raised an eyebrow. “Should I be worried?” “What? No,” said John. “I'm seeing a guy about helping me be a better manager and deal with people

better—manage conflict better.” “Oh,” she said, surprised. “Well, that's magnificent, John.” There she was, showing emotion again. “Yeah, it's pretty eye-opening stuff.” “For example?” Gail prodded. “Well,” said John, searching for a good sound bite from Saturday, “for example, he talks about how

people don't really have weaknesses so much as they have strengths that they may use at the wrong time or use them too intensely. He calls them ‘overdone strengths.’ And they can be a big source of conflict between people.” “That's intriguing. I've never thought of it quite like that. Did he give you anything? Any support

material?” “Not yet. I completed a couple of assessments, but we haven't really gone through them in detail yet. All

I know is it's a concept of relationship awareness theory.” Gail's head tilted ever so slightly. She was clearly intrigued.

“So this guy I'm working with gave me some homework to do.” “Really,” said Gail with a hint of a smile. “I'm beginning to like him already.” John had forgotten that Gail was an adjunct professor at a local university. She taught a course on

market research or statistics, he thought. He figured the whole idea of homework must have a certain sadistic appeal to her. “I just need to collect a little feedback from you,” said John. “I'm not sure if I can do it right this minute, given everything I still need to prepare for today. If I can't

give you what you need right now, can I get back to you after I've had a chance to give it some thought?” John bit his lip and smiled, “Of course.” All John wanted was some simple, off-the-cuff impressions,

but Gail seemed incapable of speaking off the top of her head. Her acute analysis paralysis had always been an irritation to John. As he felt himself getting annoyed, he remembered Mac's advice: this was one of those opportunities to look beneath her behavior and find the underlying strength. When he really thought about it, he had always truly respected Gail's experience and expertise. Her analytical approach and thirst for detail had saved his butt on more than one occasion. John glanced at his notes and pushed on. “So one of the things we worked on was determining my top

six personal strengths. What I identified for myself were self-confident, competitive, ambitious, fair, quick to act, and principled. What do you think?” He looked up at Gail and waited for a reaction. She paused for what seemed to be an eternity. “I would

probably agree with that assessment. But can I be honest?” “Absolutely. I need you be honest,” said John, flashing a wry smile. “At least as honest as you were on

my performance appraisal.” “Would you like this feedback or not?” she asked, not amused. “Sorry.” “Are you sure quick to act is a strength? In my book, this need of yours to move so quickly on

everything has gotten you in some trouble over the years.” “Well, that's what I'm after,” said John. “I need to know how some of these traits might be working

against me at times. Do you have an example?” “Okay. Let me think for a minute.” Gail squeezed a wedge of lemon into her iced tea, stirred it slowly,

and set the spoon squarely in the center of a paper napkin. John watched the ritual with newly found curiosity. “EagleMark,” said Gail, finally. John winced. He knew what was coming next. She had rubbed his nose in the EagleMark fiasco many

times over the past year. Why not now? “You barged into my office to push me on discounting for EagleMark Enterprises. You had just come

from your lunch meeting with Mr. Willis, and you had yourself convinced that the account was—let me see if I can recall your exact words—‘This guy is a whale in waiting. I can turn EagleMark into our biggest-volume customer in one year.’ You stood in front of my desk and badgered me until I finally gave in.” John's face burned. He stared at his note pad fighting the urge to justify his side, an old, worn-out beast

of an argument. “And where is your whale now?” continued Gail. “If I recall the last year-to-date report correctly,

EagleMark is in the bottom 10 percent of all active accounts in the country, and they're receiving our deepest discount.” Gail took a sip of iced tea as if to quell a potential flare-up. “I'm still taking heat for

that, and I sure hope it doesn't come up today in my meeting upstairs.” John shifted in his chair. “I believe you called it ‘irrational exuberance.’ At least that's what I remember

from my performance appraisal.” “My exact words,” said Gail, with a bit of satisfaction. Being accurately quoted had always been a big

deal for her. Misquoting her or taking her words out of context were well-known ways to find yourself on Gail's bad side. John's mind was bursting with explanations and excuses about the EagleMark situation. He hadn't

thought about how hard it was going to be to just listen to the feedback without comment. He eked out a simple, “Okay.” “Whether that account had been successful or not, I didn't appreciate your approach with me at all.”

Gail took a bite of salad—a clear signal that the topic would no longer be discussed. She hated bringing it up almost as much as John hated being reminded. The EagleMark situation had been a frequent weapon that the executives upstairs had used against both of them. John was happy to change the subject and possibly end on a positive note. “Are there times when my

strengths have really benefited the organization?” asked John hopefully. “Sure, John. I think you bring a lot to my team—your competitive drive, desire to succeed, and high

level of confidence can raise the bar for everyone—especially when you and Randy start trying to outdo each other in sales contests. It gets everyone engaged and causes all of us to think more about our business. I also know that when you really believe in something, you don't let anything stand in your way. Look at an account like Hemisphere Worldwide. We wouldn't be where we are today with them if you hadn't seen the opportunity that was beneath the surface.” “See. Sometimes I know what I'm talking about,” said John with a sheepish grin. “But in the case of Hemisphere, you did your research first and came to me with a game plan. You

weren't so impulsive.” “Thanks, Gail. I'm glad you appreciate the work I put into that one.” “I do appreciate it, John. And I appreciate you and the work you're doing with this consultant. I truly

think you've got potential to do great things in this company, but you've got some work to do on the people front. Your approach doesn't sit well with everyone.” Gail glanced at her watch and put her utensils in a neat pile on her plate. “I need to head back upstairs.” “Thanks, Gail. I'm trying.” “I see that. I think it's wonderful what you're doing. Keep me informed about your progress.” What he saw in Gail's face wasn't a smile, but there was a subtle pride in her eyes that he hadn't seen in

a long time. As he watched her leave, his thoughts swirled as he recounted the conversation. He picked up his pen to

write some notes. “Hey, John-John. Can I join you?” John looked up and saw Leslie from marketing. Without waiting for an answer, she slid into what had

been Gail's chair. Leslie was Starr Industries' town crier. There wasn't a rumor in the building she hadn't heard or started. John had no doubt Leslie had been watching his lunch with Gail from afar and was bursting with curiosity. He scanned the room for an escape route. “What's going on?” asked Leslie. “I heard about the regional position. I'm so sorry.” “Well, that's the way it goes sometimes,” said John. He had no interest in opening up to her about how

he was really feeling. He was mortified enough, knowing she knew about it. Then again, if anyone

would… “I'd be pissed. Who else are they going to give it to? Randy? Guy's the world's biggest exaggerator.” John smiled to himself at the irony of calling someone the world's biggest exaggerator. He took his first

bite of his dried-out club sandwich—anything not to have to engage her on a subject that was still tender. Leslie seemed unfazed by John's detachment from the conversation. He hoped he wasn't the only one who found Leslie exhausting. “Did Gail beat you up today?” asked Leslie. “I bet she dredged up the EagleMark thing again.” John looked up from his sandwich. “I swear, Leslie, you must have this building bugged.” “She did, didn't she?” asked Leslie. John's look gave her the answer. “Look, John, we're on the same

team on that one. I thought EagleMark would be a winner too. And believe me, I got my forty lashes over it as well.” “Yeah,” John conceded sourly. “Guess you should be leery next time I start waving a flag around.” “No way, John. We need your kind of energy around here. EagleMark may have been a dud, but there

are five more just like it that you called perfectly. I love working with you on stuff.” John looked her in the eye for the first time. He had no idea she felt that way. He knew Leslie had taken

some heat, and he felt largely responsible for that. The guilt reminded him of his homework assignment. He hadn't planned on using Leslie as a feedback provider, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to knock two out in one lunch. “So, Les?” John asked with a hint of collusion. “We've known each other, what—almost three years

now. Right?” “No, I'm not running away with you, John Doyle,” said Leslie dramatically. “You're a married man.”

She flipped her hair over her ear playfully. John smiled. “Yeah, yeah. I don't know how you get anything done fighting off all our advances all day

long.” “It's a real burden, but I get by,” she said, sighing loudly. “So what's up?” “I was curious about how you see me.” “How I see you?” “The way I do things. Do you think I can be a little over the top when it comes to my approach with

people? Am I too rash sometimes? May be a little too competitive?” “Wow, Gail really got in your head today, didn't she?” “No. It's not Gail. I'm just looking for some honest feedback.” “Feedback, huh?” “Do I sometimes do things that tick you off?” “I wouldn't say you tick me off. But you definitely have a competitive side—maybe a little too

competitive for my taste. When you and Randy go head-to-head on some stupid contest—whoa!—get out of the way.” “That upsets you?” asked John. “I don't know. It's just—we're a team, you know? And with you guys, it turns into this smack-talking,

throw-down brawl. It kinda makes me uncomfortable—for me and, I'm sure, other people in the department. It's like I start to wonder if I'm going to be the next one to get stepped on while the two of you punch and push your way to the finish line. You know what I mean?” “Wow. I had no idea,” said John. “But you realize Randy and I have been going at it like that forever.

We may talk a little trash, but there's no harm intended. We're buddies.”

“Oh, I get that. I'm just saying. It seems like your ‘friendly competition’ sometimes comes at the expense of the team. You guys become, like, possessed. I find myself giving in to your ideas just to get you two to back off a little. It's not because I necessarily agree with you.” John absorbed this. “I guess I could see how it might be tough for the rest of you.” “I don't know,” said Leslie. “Maybe it's just those ridiculous sales contests. They bring out the

Johnasaurus Rex.” John laughed. “Johnasaurus Rex?” “Oh, haven't you heard that before?” Tyrannosaurus, meaning ‘tyrant lizard,’ was one of the largest land carnivores of all time. It was a

fierce predator that walked on two powerful legs and… “What'cha doing? Your kid's homework?” John quickly closed out of the Web site window. In the doorway to his office, he found Randy—a wide

grin filling his face. “Don't you ever knock?” asked John with a frown. “Not when the door is open.” Randy flopped his oversized frame into one of John's side chairs and

motioned to John's computer. “What's with the dinosaurs?” “Did you know about this Johnasaurus nickname?” Randy laughed. “Of course. Everyone does!” John shook his head. He didn't quite know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult. “It's better than mine,” admitted Randy. “Why, what's yours?” “If you don't know, I ain't tellin'.” “I guess I've been left out of the nickname loop.” “Is this what your voice mail was about?” asked Randy. “Your nickname?” “No.” “Well if you're looking for the secret behind my latest beat-down of team extinction, I'm pretty sure

you're…” John's mind wandered as Randy droned on. Was there a word for overdone trash talking? If so, Randy

was pictured next to the definition. It was a skill he must have honed growing up on the asphalt basketball courts of his childhood and later as a college basketball star at some Big Ten school. You couldn't know Randy without knowing all about his glory days. His intense competitiveness made John second-guess asking him for feedback. But he also knew that he and Randy shared a lot of the same strengths. And after talking to Gail and Leslie, he figured he could use a little ego boost by talking to someone who played the game the same way he did. Randy was still talking when John got up and shut the door. That got his attention. “Whoa. That serious, huh?” “No, biggie,” said John, returning to his chair. “I just need to ask you something. And I want you to think

before you respond—if that's even possible.” “Sure. What's up?” “I'm wondering if I ever do anything that creates conflict between us?” Randy sat there and stared. Suddenly he burst out with laughter and stood up. “Man, that's rich,” he said,

moving toward the door. “I'm serious.”

“You been watching too much Oprah and Dr. Phil.” “So nothing causes conflict?” asked John. “I thought we were cool? All in fun, right?” “I know. I'm just making sure.” “Look, man. We're both fighters—hard chargers. Varsity team. The rest of these fools got nothing on us.

I actually like you pushing me. It makes me better. I've got no problem with that. Besides I'm usually kicking your butt every month.” “Yeah, that's what I figured,” said John. “The only thing I don't like is when you check out on me and don't shovel it right back. Takes the fun out

of it.” “What are you talking about?” “I don't know, man. Sometimes you kinda go vacant. The out-to-lunch signs go up in your eyes.” “When does that happen?” asked John. “Usually you're unstoppable. Johnasaurus Rex, right? But things go a little off-track, and you kinda run

away with your little dino tail between your legs.” “I don't do that.” “The hell you don't. Remember when I started here? I was shadowing some of your calls with you.

There was that one client. I forget his name. He sorta sucker-punched you with a contract issue—wanted to pull his business. You completely choked.” “I didn't choke,” said John, defensively. “Total deer in the headlights.” “I was thinking.” “You were stammering like a grade schooler giving a book report. You coulda easily pulled through that

situation. That part of the contract is always negotiable here. You choked, bro.” After Randy left his office, John's mind was racing. He was trying to get feedback about his strengths,

but this was something different—and he didn't like it. There was no appeal to being a fighter who runs away during a fight. And yet that's how he was coming off to people? And to hear it from Randy made it all the more embarrassing. The fact was, John was never running away. He was thinking, strategizing. He always stepped back and assessed a situation before attacking. Isn't that what all good generals do? Randy was all about shoot first, apologize later. How could that be better? John found himself anxious for his next rendezvous with Mac—whenever and wherever that turned out to be.

Chapter Five

John quietly eased the door closed behind him and entered the darkened theater. He chuckled at the futility of his caution when he found the vast sea of red velvet seats empty. Aided by the dim aisle lighting, John made his way toward the darkened stage. The curtain was up, but the set was difficult to make out. John began to wonder why Mac insisted on dark, obscure places for his meetings. John called out. “Hello?” Suddenly the theater burst to life. Red lights flooded the stage, illuminating a painted backdrop that

resembled a European street scene—flower stand, bistro, Old World architecture. John stood and stared into the intense, glow from the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mister John Doyle!” Mac's voice boomed from the house speakers. John looked around, trying to locate the source of the voice. “Up here,” called Mac, no longer using the microphone. John found him, waving from the side of the stage. “Come on up.” John made his way to the stage, where he saw that the Italian bistro was really just a plywood facade

suspended from a web of ropes and wires that trailed into the void beyond the red stage lights. He hadn't been on a stage since elementary school, and he could count on one hand the number of times he'd been an audience member—twice for his kids' school performances and a few plays Nancy had dragged him to. Now he was center-stage, basked in red light before three hundred empty seats. “You look good up there, John. Ever done any acting?” “Nah. I was kind of a jock in high school.” Mac carried two café chairs to the front edge of the stage and positioned them facing the set. “You're not going to make me perform, are you?” asked John apprehensively. “Why? Is that out of your comfort zone?” asked Mac with a sly grin. “Seriously?” Mac laughed. “No, I'm not going to make you perform—although my wife is always looking for new

talent. She directs a couple of shows here every year. And when she's not directing, she's acting or helping out with all of the others.” “That's impressive,” said John. “Well, it's glorified community theater. But she loves it. She studied acting in college and probably

could have had a decent career, but I charmed her away from Broadway. Now I'm forced to pay for that transgression by volunteering as the set builder in residence.” “Ah. You and your trusty tools.” “Exactly.” “So what now? Will you be performing a play for me on conflict?” “Not exactly, but I do want to play with some concepts a little today.” Mac sat down in one of the café

chairs. “But first, have a seat. I'm curious how your feedback homework went. What did you discover?” John pulled out his note pad and took a seat in the other chair. “Well, it was kind of all over the place.” “That would make sense,” said Mac.

“How so?” “You talked to multiple people, right?” “Yeah?” “It'll start to make sense very soon,” said Mac, reassuringly. “Tell me what you learned.” “Well, people seem to think I overdo my strengths—some more than others. And different people

mentioned different strengths. I know my boss thinks I'm far too loud in my quickness to act and self- confidence. She'd like the volume turned way down on those.” John squinted at his notes. He wasn't used to the intense red light. “And then with my buddy Randy—we're pretty similar in a lot of ways—he didn't have any complaints with the way I act except when things get tough.” “That's interesting. Explain what you mean there.” “Randy is a pretty focused go-getter type like I am. But I guess when conflict starts, he's instantly ready

to pick up the bat and start swinging. I don't do that. I kind of step back and think about what's going on before I feel ready to dive into the fight. That's where Randy found frustration working with me. I mean, is that so wrong? Shouldn't we all think before we act?” Mac looked at John and grinned. “This is going to be a good day. I can feel it.” And then he jumped out

of his chair, clearly bursting with anticipation. “You didn't answer my question.” “I promise you,” said Mac, “you won't leave this stage before you can answer those questions yourself.

I'm going to walk you a little further through the theory of relationship awareness—try to help you better understand the nature of conflict. Good?” “Okay, Doc,” sighed John. Mac began pacing. “Since we're on a stage, let me ask you a question about acting.” “That wouldn't be my favorite Jeopardy! category, but I'll give it a try.” “Do you know what method acting is?” “I've heard the term, but I'm not sure I could explain it,” said John. “Basically method acting relates to techniques actors use to create in themselves the thoughts and

emotions of the characters they're playing. They don't just act the emotion; they recreate the emotion in themselves by identifying what their characters must be feeling.” “Like putting yourself in someone else's shoes?” asked John. “In a way, yes. You'll often hear a method actor ask the director, ‘What's my motivation?’ They're trying

to determine where the character is coming from. What they're after.” “Got it.” “Well,” continued Mac, “just as a method actor needs to figure out the purpose driving his character's

actions to create a convincing performance, we need to take the time to ask the same question.” “What's my motivation?” repeated John. “Exactly. If we want to have productive relationships, we need to figure out what our motivation is and

—perhaps more important—what the other person's motivation is.” “How does knowing that make our relationships more productive?” asked John. “Remember what we talked about last time? Behavior can be deceiving. It's more important to know

why someone is doing something in order to understand his or her intent and avoid letting misinterpretations cause you conflict.” “Kind of like you were talking about with my overdone strengths,” confirmed John. “Gail may be seeing

rash behavior in me, but she might be less inclined to go into conflict over it if she knew it was really just

my desire to act quickly. All I'm trying to do is jump on an opportunity and get things accomplished.” “Right! And when she understands that,” said Mac, “all of a sudden, she can see the behavior she's been

perceiving as rash in a different light. She can begin to see it as your true motivation of wanting to achieve results—which I hardly think she'd find issue with.” “And yet it seems that she always does,” said John. “I can do something that I think is absolutely right,

and it seems as if she sees it as absolutely wrong. I'm really surprised sometimes at how we see the same issue so differently—like we're not even living in the same world.” “That's where it becomes important to understand what her motivation is.” “Wouldn't she be motivated by results too?” asked John. “I'm sure results are of value to her, but the way you've described her, there may be other things that are

even more important to her. What motivates you may not be what motivates her—and others too. The problem is that most people don't know this. They assume everyone views the world the way they do. And if they do know, it's sometimes hard to put that knowledge into practice. Our filter is pretty hard to get around.” “What do you mean by filter?” Mac walked to the side of the stage and grabbed something. “You've heard the term rose-colored

glasses, right?” he asked. “Sure, like for someone who sees things only positively,” answered John. “People who view the world through rose-colored glasses have a filter of optimism that affects the way

they interpret what happens around them. That same concept is really true for all of us. Only instead of it being optimism, it's our motivational values that filter our perceptions. We interpret what we see others do through our own set of standards.” Mac returned to his chair. In his hand, John saw what appeared to be some sort of oversized remote

control. “What do you see there?” asked Mac, pointing to the painted facade. “It's a backdrop,” answered John. “Yes, but describe it. What setting does it create? What is the mood?” “It looks like a city street someplace in Europe. Italy, I'd guess,” offered John. He sensed a trick

question and peered at the set carefully. “Is it a nice place?” asked Mac. “Looks pretty nice. It reminds me of a trip Nancy and I took before the kids were born. Venice, then

Florence. It was beautiful.” Mac just smiled at John. He pointed the remote and jabbed a button with his thumb. Instantly the lights

popped from red to green. “Pretty tricky,” said John. “I'm also the lighting director here,” explained Mac. “So now what do you see?” John looked back at the street scene. In the thick, green light, the same walls of the buildings were now

marred with graffiti. The shop windows were splintered with cracks. “Looks like a war zone,” said John. “Maybe this is what the same situation looks like to someone like Gail. With her green-colored filter,

things look pretty different. Can you see how that could cause conflict? Like you described: same world but a very different view of it.” “Wow, so I'm just out there, living in la-la land while the rest of the world sees everything a different

way?” asked John. “I'm just using this setting as an illustration of filters. You mentioned Randy having pretty similar views

to you. Would you say his motivation is also concerned with getting things done and achieving results?” “Definitely.” Mac hit the button again, and the lights reverted back to red. The Italian bistro returned to its pristine

state. “So his filter is pretty close to your own in most situations.” “That makes sense,” said John. “But why do you say ‘most situations’? If our motivational values are

the same, wouldn't we always see things the same way?” “When all is well, that's probably true. But when we are faced with conflict, suddenly our motivation

can change completely. And when that happens, your filter changes too.” John stood up. He was feeling energized as pieces were falling into place. “That explains why Randy

doesn't understand my approach to conflict. We usually share a filter, but conflict comes along and shakes things up.” “Exactly! You're both running along in Red Land, and then something happens to you that sends you off

course.” Mac hit the switch to fill the stage in green again. “You're in conflict now,” declared Mac. “A new filter has washed over you. Meanwhile, Randy is still

seeing Red and can't understand what happened to his Red-running buddy. You stop making sense to him.” “And this happens to everyone?” asked John, his mind racing. Mac considered the question a moment. “Tell me about your wife.” “Huh?” “What do you think Nancy's motivation is?” “I don't know,” said John warily. “If anyone would, you would. Think about it.” John was taken aback by the question. He had been in such a work-life mind-set that he had yet to let his

home life be a factor. But it made perfect sense when he thought about it. His work with Dr. Mac was about conflict and his relationships. There was no distinction between work and home when he looked at it at that level. Mac was still waiting for an answer. John first thought about Nancy's behaviors. Perhaps they would

offer clues into her motivation. “I'd say she's pretty loving and caring. Always very supportive.” “Okay, but you need to get to the why. Just like your ambition serves your desire to achieve and get

things done, what desire does her supportiveness serve?” “She truly wants to help people.” “Okay, good.” Mac took John by the arm and walked him to the upper right side of the stage. “Stand there,” Mac

directed, as he walked back to the chairs. He snatched them up and placed one at center stage, close to the edge. Then he positioned the other one directly across from John on the upper left side of the stage. After making a few adjustments with the chairs' positioning, Mac walked to the center—between John and the two chairs. “Ready for this?” asked Mac, almost giddy with anticipation. “Trust, Doc,” offered John, dryly. “I'm pulling that tool from the depths of my toolbox.” “Good man.”

Mac flicked a button on his remote, and the light shifted quickly. John found himself again flooded in red light, but this time, the light came at him from behind, creating a swath of red along the stage. John's black shadow stretched to where Mac stood. John could also see that the chair at the edge of the stage was lit with a green spotlight. The other chair was in blue. All three colors combined at the center creating an almost white light where Mac stood at the hub. The overall effect was a three-color triangle on the battered wood floor of the stage. “Welcome to the seven motivational value systems,” said Mac, proudly. “Does that mean we left Italy?” “We've taken a journey to the clusters of motives that individuals use in their quest for self-worth. When

things are going well, these are the blends of values that work together to drive our behavior.” “Okay, Doc. You lost me.” “Let's say this entire triangle of light on the floor represents the one unifying thing every human being

wants—to feel worthwhile.” “Self-worth,” recalled John. “Right. It's the ultimate motivation we all share. We want to feel good about ourselves. Gail wants that.

Nancy wants that. Randy wants that. But how each of us obtains that for ourselves can be different—hence the multiple colors—Red, Green, and Blue. The things that generate feelings of self-worth in some people may not generate the same feelings of self-worth in others. But the goal is ultimately still the same.” “So my route to self-worth is Red?” asked John. “Exactly. The Red approach is Assertive-Directing, with a concern for task accomplishment and the

organization of people and resources to achieve results.” “That sounds about right.” “Absolutely. Plus, you took an assessment that told me you were,” said Mac with a wink. He walked to

the blue area. “Now, if you're right about Nancy, she sits over here in the Blue chair. People in this Altruistic-Nurturing area of the triangle achieve self-worth when they can focus on the protection, growth, and welfare of others. They want to help people.” “Does that mean Gail sits over in the Green chair?” asked John. Mac moved that way. “Probably. The Green part of the triangle is the Analytic-Autonomizing area. They

have a concern for precision and establishing and maintaining order. They achieve self-worth when they have assurance that things have been properly thought out.” “That would be Gail, all right,” said John. “So where are the other four colors?” “What do you mean?” asked Mac. “You said there were seven motivational thingies.” “Motivational value systems. That's true. There are seven, but they're all just an interplay of these three

core motivations. The other four are blendings of them. When motives combine, they make new areas. Just like here in the center where Red, Green, and Blue combine to make the hub of the triangle. This group is called Flexible-Cohering.” Mac walked to the center, where the light turned white. “This area is focused on the group—members of the group, welfare of the group, belonging in the group. Since it's a fairly equitable blend of Blue, Red, and Green, the people in this area can often relate easily to people of other regions of the triangle. I'm actually a Hub, myself. I find self-worth by being flexible and open-minded.” “Is that why you can't stand being in your office? You just want to mix it up a little?” asked John. Mac laughed. “Maybe so.” He held up his lighting remote. “But I also don't have this in my office.” “True. You definitely couldn't 3pull off your light show there.” John walked halfway to the chair under

the blue light and stopped. “So would this be a blended motivational value system?” “Exactly. You're in the area of Red-Blue, aka the Assertive-Nurturing folks. People in that area share a

little from the Red side and a little from the Blue side. Self-worth is achieved with a concern for helping others, while using task accomplishment and leadership.” Mac took a spot between the red and green lights. “This is the Judicious-Competing group. They show a

concern for rational leadership, strategy, and fairness in competition. A little Red with a little Green.” John crossed over to the Blue-Green blend, “So these guys want to help people analytically?” “In a way, yes. That's the Cautious-Supporting area. They want to thoughtfully help people help

themselves.” “Wow. That's a lot of different kinds of people to have to figure out,” said John. “Well, it's helpful to look at it as three primary drives working together to yield these seven basic

personality types. But even within these seven, you'll find variation, just as you do here on the floor, when the colored lights mix in varying degrees. Even two people in the Red part of the triangle may have varying degrees of Red. Randy, for example, may be with you in the Red part of the triangle, but he may be closer to the tip or maybe near one of the blend areas, like Red-Green. You relate to him well because he's close by—not because he's identical to you.” “Are you saying that even if I'm Red, I also have some Green and Blue?” asked John. “You're a mixture but predominantly Red. Think of it like this. If we were making a bunch of different

kinds of ice cream, the recipes for each flavor share most of the same ingredients. But a few things stand out in each one to make it the flavor we identify when we see and taste it. For the most part, every person has a little of everything. We just sometimes prefer one set of ingredients over others, which gives us our flavor. You gravitate more toward the Red values than the Green and Blue ones.” “So I have a Red flavor,” said John. “And I'm kind of a neapolitan here in the Hub,” said Mac. John walked around the triangle slowly. With each step, he thought about the meaning of the shade of

color his foot landed on. “There's a decent amount of complexity in the human condition, isn't there?” Mac inquired. “You're telling me. It would sure be a lot easier if everyone came from Red land.” “True, but how dysfunctional would that be? Who's going to follow your leadership? Who's going to

handle the details? You need the helpers and the thinkers and everyone else on this triangle. Quite frankly, all this diversity is good.” “But good isn't always easy,” John pointed out. “It gets easier. That's why we're working together.” John nodded. He was still staring at the colored lights spread across the floor. “So if we're all just trying to do the right thing, how do we end up dealing with so much conflict?”

asked John. “Well, as we are all standing in our respective spots, trying to do the right thing to maintain our own

sense of self-worth, conflict can happen when our right thing appears to be the wrong thing to another person across the triangle.” “There's so much conflict because there are so many things that can set it off,” said John. “Unfortunately, that's true. But let's break it down—make it a little more manageable.” “Gladly.” John sighed with relief. “You said Gail found your approach in certain situations not to her liking. True?”

“Very true,” admitted John. Mac walked down and sat in the green-lit chair. “Can you now start to see why that may be?” “She's Green, and I'm Red?” John offered tentatively. “Well, that's a little oversimplified. Tell me what you think the dynamic is, considering the different

motivational value systems at play.” “Well, she thinks I rush into things without thinking them through. She calls me impulsive. I think I'm just

too hard-charging and competitive for her orderly, by-the-book sensibility. She wants to slow down and wait for data, while I want to speed up so we don't miss an opportunity. She's so damn worried about policy that by the time she gets around to approving anything, we've missed the opportunity completely.” “It sounds as if she has some great strengths,” Mac suggested. “Great strengths? How do you figure?” John felt a pounding frustration well up inside him. “It's

impossible to get anything done around her. All she does is throw up roadblocks and slow down my progress. Sometimes I think she's intentionally trying to hold me and my team back with all of her nitpicking.” Just thinking about Gail got John worked up. He had become an expert at reciting these complaints. He'd

happily offer an earful to anyone who would listen, and he was certain that Nancy was tired of hearing him vent about her—though she would never complain about it. “I think you're starting to understand the nature of conflict, John.” Mac offered gently. “I am?” “Jump out of your filter, and think about what you just said.” John looked at Mac, now completely bathed in green light. He thought about how Mac defined the

Analytic-Autonomizing values: logic, thoughtfulness, fairness. When he considered Gail's perspective, her right thing was to make sure everyone was moving in the correct direction after taking into account all the facts. His own “irrational exuberance” probably scared her. It probably pushed her to operate way out of her comfort zone. Mac sat quietly while John put the pieces together. “We're causing each other conflict,” John said thoughtfully. “Gail and I are both trying to do the right

thing, based on our own reasons, but because these reasons—or, like you said, motivations—are filtering our perceptions, we feel conflict when we see behaviors that challenge our way of doing things. We're both trying to do our jobs the best way we know how, but our styles are so different that she thinks I'm working against her—and vice versa.” Mac smiled. “That's what we call a breakthrough moment, John.” John felt a new sense of awareness and clarity wash over him. “Wow. And most of my top strengths are

in direct opposition to her preferred way of doing things.” “And I would venture to guess that some of her top strengths are in direct opposition to your preferred

way of doing things. What would you consider Gail's strengths to be?” asked Mac. John chuckled. “I'm not sure that I'm the right person to answer that question.” “Oh, I think you are. You've already told me that Gail is orderly and cautious.” “Those are strengths?” John said, with more than a hint of sarcasm. “They are. Absolutely. So is being analytical. This world needs people who are organized, analytical,

and cautious—just like it needs people who are confident and ambitious. I may not like using my plumbing tools, but I sure am glad there are people who do. I rely on those people. I have them on my speed-dial.” “Okay, I could see that.”

“Maybe you're struggling to find Gail's strengths because you're stuck seeing her as a frustration. Try this: think about what bugs you, and then find the positive side. In other words, trace back her strengths from the overdone strengths.” John chuckled. “You know what? I already did this with her. When I was asking for feedback, I started

to get annoyed by her incessant analysis paralysis, and I forced myself to look for the strength.” “That's fantastic, John. So this should be easy.” John took a deep breath and gave it a go. “Basically Gail is very logical and methodical. She thinks

things through, which helps us avoid making bad decisions. She also establishes guidelines and makes sure everything is clear and thorough. Oh, and whenever there's a sales contest or new bonus plan, she works really hard to make sure that it's a level playing field for everyone.” “And what is the strength at play there?” asked Mac with a hint of a smile. “I guess fairness? Which I totally respect. I don't want anyone coming back after I beat the socks off

‘em and saying that I had some sort of advantage,” said John. “Fairness. Interesting. I seem to remember fair being one of your strengths.” “Yeah, I guess that's true. So what does that mean?” “That's a great illustration of the distinction between behaviors and motivation. You may share a

strength like fairness but use that tool for different reasons. Same behavior, different motivation,” explained Mac. “Has Gail's behavior of fair ever caused you conflict?” “Not that I can think of.” “Why would it?” said Mac. “But it's clear to see how someone who's quick to act might upset someone

who's cautious and methodical. Or how someone who is reserved might react to someone who's brimming with self-confidence.” “Absolutely,” said John. “And that's just a contrast of plain old strengths—not even their overdone counterparts.” “So then what can I do about it?” asked John. “About what?” “What do I do to keep from feeling conflict about her way of doing things?” “You've already done it.” “I have? What have I done?” “You've started to understand where she's coming from,” stated Mac, standing over the green chair.

“You can begin to see her behavior as merely a difference of style—not a direct challenge or threat aimed at annoying you or derailing you.” “That's it?” asked John. “It's a good start. Often conflict is a choice, just like behavior is a choice. If you choose to continue to

feel conflict over the way she does things, that's on you. Because now you know she's just trying to do what she feels is right—using a behavior that brings her a feeling of self-worth.” John smiled. He had to admit that even after one meeting with Mac, he had noticed a difference in his

interaction with Gail. And after this afternoon, he was seeing her in a completely new light—a Green one, to be exact. He knew Mac was right. Reaching an awareness of Gail's motivation gave John an undeniable feeling of understanding and respect for her. It made him almost eager for the next opportunity to talk with her and see how this newly found appreciation would bear on their relationship. “Of course, conflict can come from other places too,” said Mac. “It's more than just a reaction to styles,

behaviors, and overdone strengths. And in some cases, what people perceive as conflict is really

something else. When people have different ideas about how to handle an issue, I call these disagreements opposition rather than conflict. Opposition is often part of a healthy debate that leads us to better ideas.” “Yeah,” agreed John, “I've found that brainstorming with people who have different points of view can

be helpful in finding the best way to move forward on something.” “And that's productive,” said Mac. “In my mind, it can't be called conflict until it gets personal.” “Totally. With some people—in some situations—it starts to feel real personal. The difference is

obvious.” “And that's an important distinction. I like to characterize conflict as the feeling that occurs when

another person or set of circumstances becomes an obstacle that inhibits one's ability to live out their motivational values.” “Whoa, hold up there, Doc.” John reached for his note pad. “Can you explain that?” “Sorry. That was maybe too Green a definition.” Mac stood and moved to the blue area. “People feel

conflict when they can't be in their desired color space.” Mac grabbed the chair and brought it back to the edge of the stage next to the other one. Mac continued. “When you were talking about Gail working against you at work, you looked pretty

worked up.” “I felt pretty worked up,” John confirmed. Mac sat back down and hit a button on the lighting remote. The lights burst back to a red glow. John sat

down next to Mac, ready for the next light show. “So in those situations,” said Mac, “you had an overwhelming emotional response—a feeling—brought

on by Gail's becoming an obstacle to your desire for achievement and getting things done.” “Right.” “She's blocking you from your desire to live in the Red—your ‘happy place.’ That's the feeling of

conflict. Your sense of self-worth is threatened, and when that happens, your motivation changes in a predictable pattern. You feel pulled away from your happy place, which causes you to experience sequential changes in your motivation, which drive changes in your behavior.” “Huh? What do you mean by ‘predictable pattern’?” asked John. “Every person has a predictable and sequential pattern for how they experience changes in their

motivation in the face of ongoing conflict. Essentially conflict is experienced as a sequence of three progressively serious stages and is often—but not always—evident to others due to a change in behavior as well.” “I'm not sure I'm following.” “Well, let's revisit Randy's feedback. He noticed a real change in you in the face of conflict.” “That's what he said, yeah.” “Tell me what that change feels like to you,” Mac said. “When Gail starts getting in your way, what do

you do? When there's an issue at home, how does it feel?” “Well, let's see. I guess my most common response is that I pull away and want to think about it. I go

into my own analysis mode, trying to figure out what happened—who did what—and how I can work around it. I just want things to make sense.” The lights cut out with a bang. Darkness enveloped them, until a sharp circle of green light slowly

appeared on the floor at the left side of the stage. “That's your stage 1,” said Mac quietly. John could just make out his face in the darkness. “Now what if

things persist? What do you do then?”

“I guess I get kind of angry if things don't get resolved. At that point, I come out swinging. And I'm pretty unbeatable because I've had a lot of time to prepare my case. I've been known to fire my share of verbal missiles, and that almost always gets me in trouble. But at that point, I don't care.” Mac pressed more buttons on his remote and—a spotlight made a sharp, red circle of light on the floor

at center-stage. “So that's your stage 2,” said Mac. “Then what?” “I don't think there is a ‘then what?’ ” “So you've won every stage 2 battle? You've resolved every conflict?” “No,” admitted John, after some reflection. “Stage 3 conflict can be tough. Many people experience it only a handful of times in their life. And it's

never pretty or pleasant,” said Mac. “Well, when it's gotten that bad, I guess I'm feeling pretty defeated. I've left it all on the field, and I've

lost the will to fight.” Blue lights dropped on the right side of the stage. John looked at the three pools of light breaking the

darkness of the theater. “This is your conflict sequence, John.” The sight gave John a chill for a reason he couldn't identify. Maybe it was the darkness—or perhaps the

subject matter. John shook it off and stood. He approached the small spotlight of green—his first stage of conflict. “I suppose we're all different in conflict too?” asked John. “There are thirteen possible conflict sequences.” “Different combinations of Red, Green, and Blue?” asked John. “You got it,” said Mac. “When most people think of conflict, they think of people angrily pointing their

fingers and yelling at each other, don't they?” “But that's just a Red response, right?” asked John. “Mine is more subtle. My wife says I sulk.” “But you're really just being cautious and assessing the situation. That's the Green response.” “And Blue?” “A first-stage Blue response to conflict is about keeping the peace—giving in to try to smooth things

over with the other person,” Mac stated. “These are all common responses, but they're just behaviors— driven by a change in motivation. And the cause of that change is that you see your self-worth being threatened.” “They're pulling me away from my happy place—where I feel good about myself,” concluded John. “Exactly. And you run the risk of doing the same to other people—pulling them from their motivational

value system. You deploy your strengths in support of your Red motivational values. Another person with different motivational values may see that behavior related to a particular issue as threatening to their self-worth, and it creates conflict in them.” “And then they experience a shift in motivation.” “Precisely. People go into conflict only about things that are important to them, so if you think about it,

that's a great opportunity.” “How so?” “It's a learning opportunity. If we can recognize the source of the conflict—in other words, the trigger

that launched the conflict—then we can learn what other people value and work to restore the sense of self-worth for the people involved.” “Actually help them out of their feelings of conflict?”

“Sure,” said Mac. “When conflict is under control, all kinds of great things are possible.” Mac joined John at the pool of green light. “Stage 1 is the most civilized. Here you're still able to focus on the whole picture—the issue, the other

person. In stage 1, you're still mindful of the factors outside yourself.” Mac moved away, stepping directly under the red spotlight, his features shadowed in the harsh light. “As a conflict becomes deeper and more serious,” Mac continued, “a person in conflict becomes more

narrowly focused on protecting self-worth and less focused on maintaining the relationship or solving the problem. The deeper the fall into our stages of conflict, the more damage is possible.” “Shouldn't we try to stay out of conflict altogether?” “Ideally, yes,” said Mac. “But that's not going to happen. There always seems to be someone or

something out there waiting to challenge our self-worth. What we can do is prevent the conflicts that are preventable and manage the conflicts that are inevitable. The ultimate goal is to minimize the visits to your deeper stages of conflict. Conflict can actually enhance your relationships. But that's more likely in stage 1. When it hits stage 2 or especially stage 3, you've lost concern for the relationship. Those verbal missiles you described can leave lasting scars.” “Scars they rarely let me forget,” said John, sadly. “So as we're trying to manage a conflict situation, we

need to figure out the other person's first stage?” “Actually it's about learning to recognize the changes in behavior. Knowing what stage you're

witnessing is a little harder. Two people in conflict might have different conflict sequences, and they don't necessarily cycle through their sequences at the same time. In fact, person A might be deep in conflict because of the way he interpreted something that person B did. Meanwhile, person B isn't in conflict at all and doesn't even realize anything is wrong.” John laughed, “You might as well call person A, ‘Nancy’ and person B, ‘John.’ ” “Do you find it hard to know if she's in conflict?” “Oh, it's not hard. It's painfully obvious. It just seems to come out of nowhere. Everything seems fine,

and then I find out she's misinterpreted something I said days ago, and I don't have a clue until it's too late. She won't even let me explain. Does that mean she's first-stage Red?” “Maybe not. You may be seeing second- or third-stage Red.” “Really?” “Well, by the time you hear about it, her focus has narrowed. She doesn't even want to hear your side.

She's focused on herself at that point. What's more likely is she's first-stage Blue. You don't see it, because it's so similar to where she sits on the triangle.” “Which is also Blue,” said John. “The shift is there, but it's harder to see.” “So all those times she kept the peace and tried to smooth everything over, she was really in first-stage

conflict?” asked John. But he already knew the answer. He started to realize that all these years, she wasn't avoiding conflict; her giving in was her conflict—first-stage conflict. When Mt. Saint Nancy erupted, she was already well into her conflict sequence. That couldn't be good. A door opened backstage, and voices followed. Mac brought the plain white stage lights on with his

controller and stood up. “It's getting late. I think we've covered enough ground for one day.” John stretched, checking his watch, “Yeah, if I'm not on time tonight, I may be getting a healthy serving

of second-stage Red for dinner.”


“Let's pick this up later in the week. We'll be in touch.” “Homework?” asked John. “Nothing specific. Just play with what you've learned. See what you notice. I wouldn't be surprised if

the world looks a lot different to you now.” “Yeah,” said John, “in shades of Red, Green, and Blue.” “And not necessarily in that order,” Mac reminded him, with a smile.


Note: For a color illustration of the triangle and all seven motivational value systems, check out the “Character Assessment Results” section at the back of this book.

Chapter Six

A surge of anxiety hit John as he scanned his calendar for the day. It was wall-to-wall appointments, and the message light was already blinking on his desk phone as he walked into his office. He had only eight minutes before the sales meeting was to start, and with a day like the one ahead of him, every second was valuable. He pressed the message button on his phone and was about to enter his PIN when there was a knock on his open door. John looked up and saw Blake, one of his junior salesmen. “I'm coming,” said John, assuming he was collecting him for the meeting. “I was just going to check—” “I think I need your help, John,” interrupted Blake. John reluctantly returned the phone to the cradle. “Sure, Blake. What's up?” asked John with a hint of a sigh. Blake took a seat on the edge of a chair. John noticed the dread in his eyes. “It's Delta Systems.” “Oh, no. What?” asked John. “Bonnie Sanstone wants to have a teleconference with us today at one. I think she's after another price

concession and maybe some other breaks.” “You gotta be kidding.” “She's threatening to move all of her business. Everything.” John instantly felt alarm wash over him, pulling him into a deeper, darker, Greener place within his

brain. He and Bonnie had locked horns many times over the years. She was Delta's purchasing agent and a ruthless negotiator. The mere mention of her name sent John into a conflict reflex. He immediately started calculating the financial damage that would result if Bonnie followed through on her threat. Delta was not only Blake's biggest customer but also one of the biggest customers in the region. If Delta's orders dropped substantially, it would cause John to drop in every sales ranking that mattered. He would have almost no chance at winning any sales awards this year, and it certainly wouldn't help his chances for a promotion. “I know how you two have gone at it in the past,” said Blake, “but I don't think I can do this alone. She's

my biggest customer by far.” “Oh, I hear you.” “If we don't give her what she wants…” Blake trailed off, as if finishing his thought would somehow

make it a reality. “She's already got us down to next to nothing,” said John. “I know, but I don't know what else to do. If I lose this account, I mean, I'm screwed for the entire year. I

won't make my numbers, and my commission check won't buy me lunch.” John shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Blake continued his plea, “And Maria is still at home with the baby. Those commission checks are all

that's keeping us going.” John was already deep in thought about how to keep Delta's business. He knew that it was going to be a

battle. Bonnie was well aware that she was one of Starr's biggest accounts, and she ruthlessly played that card at every opportunity. John glanced at the clock. The eight minutes had raced by, and now he and Blake were going to be late

for Gail's staff meeting. “We gotta go,” said John, as he stood up. “Can you help me out on this?” asked Blake. “Of course. No problem. We'll get this worked out,” said John, confidently. But deep inside, John's

thoughts were spinning. Gail's opening monologue was well under way as John and Blake found seats at the far end of the

narrow conference room. John purposely avoided making eye contact with Gail. He noticed Randy across the room, a smug grin on his face as he not-so-discreetly tapped his oversized, overpriced watch. It was his first salvo of the day. John remained unfazed though; his mind was busy with the impending teleconference with Bonnie. His brain tore through all of the possible scenarios at lightning speed. John smiled to himself at the recognition that he was fully engulfed in his first-stage Green conflict. Since the agenda was fairly light, Gail adjourned the meeting in forty minutes, and John was quickly on

his feet and making his way toward the door. With only one step to freedom, John felt Randy's big hand clap his shoulder. “Hold up there, Johnny D,” said Randy. “You, sir, were tardy.” “What are you, the hall monitor?” “If that means I can bust your chops, then yes.” “I gotta run,” said John as he moved into the hall. Randy followed, “What's wrong with you, man? You all right?” John turned to him. He thought about the feedback Randy had given him, and he realized this was a

perfect example of Randy's feeling a disconnect because of John's shift to Green conflict. He wanted to keep walking but figured this would be an opportunity to make a different choice. “Sorry, man,” said John. “I'm just a little distracted. Delta Systems is looking to grind us down again.” “Is that Bonnie? She's tough.” “You have no idea. She's prepared to jump ship if I don't give in to her demands.” Randy scowled, “You gotta stand up to that woman. She's been playing that game with our company for

years. Time to shut that down, you know? She needs us just as much as we need her.” “Easy for you to say. If she takes her business across town, I'm hosed. Blake's hosed. The whole

company would feel that one.” “I'm just tellin' you what I'd do. Don't give in, buddy,” said Randy, as he held out a fist. “Be strong.” John bumped Randy's knuckles with his own, but as he watched Randy walk away, he knew this call

wasn't going to be as simple as flexing a little muscle. Too much was at stake. The morning had raced by, and John felt impending doom churning in his gut as the clock on his desk hit

12:55. Dr. Mac hadn't returned his call yet. There would be no advice, no pep talk. He was on his own for this one. John had spent some time over lunch trying to think back on his interactions with Bonnie over the years.

What could her motivation be? From everything he remembered, it was looking like Green or Red. There were signs that could point to either one. She always came to a conversation fortified with an arsenal of data, which she quoted with whiz kid dexterity. But unlike Gail's exacting and reserved delivery (or Green-speak as John was starting to call it), Bonnie spoke with a passionate, no-nonsense, results-driven approach that reminded him of his own. After an exhausting internal debate, he remembered the blends.

He didn't have to choose one; she was probably both—a Red-Green blend. She wanted to win, but only if she had an indisputable, rational case for it. John hoped he was right about her, since over the past hour, he had been planning a Red-Green strategy for the conference call. 12:59. John dialed the designated number and punched in the pass code. An automatic greeting

welcomed him to Delta's teleconference center. Blake was already on the line. “Hello?” said John. “It's just us, boss.” said Blake. “I hope you have a plan.” “Actually, I think I do.” A few seconds later, a chime announced Bonnie's arrival on the call. “Good afternoon, everyone,” said Bonnie. “Hello, Bonnie,” offered John. “How are you, Bonn?” asked Blake. “Fine, thanks.” “How'd your husband's trip to Thailand go?” asked Blake. John cringed. Blake's love for chitchat had

always struck him as superfluous and inane. Since working with Mac, though, John realized Blake's best weapon in sales had been his ability to build close relationships with his clients. This, however, was not the time or the person for it. John imagined that Bonnie had prepared for this call even more than they had. She had her chess pieces lined up, and she was itching to start moving them. “It was fine,” said Bonnie flatly. “So.” John jumped in to block any more Blue chatter from Blake, “I hear we have some things to talk

about.” “You know, I've done business with you guys a long time,” said Bonnie. “And I'd like to stick with you,

but I've got orders to cut costs. And quite frankly, one of your competitors has offered prices that are significantly better than yours. So as much as it would pain me to do it, I'm afraid I need to make a switch.” John's stomach dropped. “Did you sign a contract with them?” “Well, not yet. But we're talking some big numbers. We're going to need a much deeper discount.” There it was. John knew this had been coming all day, but it still packed a punch. “It's just business. You understand,” explained Bonnie casually. “I understand,” said John. It wasn't the sarcastic response he wanted to give, but he was doing his best

to stay composed. He knew being baited into conflict would take the conversation down a destructive path—one he would not have as much control over. He took a deep breath and pulled on his Red-Green hat. “We've obviously been here before, Bonnie, and I know you have a job to do,” said John. “You're

responsible for managing your company's resources and making sure your production people have what they need to get the job done, right?” “Look, I just need some better numbers, John. That's it.” “I know, and I respect that. What I hope to do during our conversation today is to understand and

address what's really important to you. I've got some facts I'd like to share, and ultimately I think I can offer a winning strategy that makes sense for both of us. I really think we can work together on this.” “Okay,” Bonnie said, with a hint of caution. “I'm confident we can find an equitable way forward that works well for everyone concerned.” John read that line word for word from his notes. It was the most Red-Green statement he could think of

for the situation. He held his breath and waited for her reaction. “That would be perfect. Let's hear some of those facts,” said Bonnie. John wanted to jump up and down. He wondered if his smile could be heard on the other end of the call. For the duration of the forty-five-minute conversation, John did his best to stay in a Red-Green mind-

set. He listened and acknowledged Bonnie's position. He confidently presented Starr Industries' record of superior service and product performance data, and he offered a comprehensive market analysis, showing Starr's price points in comparison with the market overall. Throughout the conversation, Bonnie remained engaged and even softened her line-in-the-sand approach. In the end, they agreed to continue the relationship with a slight reduction in the price of four items. He also got her to agree to a two-year contract extension instead of the usual one year. In the end, the call was a big win for both John and Starr Industries. Within seconds of the teleconference ending, John's phone rang. He smiled as he recognized Blake's

number. “Are you okay with that outcome?” asked John. “Okay? I'm thrilled!” exclaimed Blake. “I've never seen anyone handle Bonnie like that. You had her

eating out of your hand. How'd you pull that off?” “I just tried a different approach this time. Instead of letting her put me on the defensive, I tried to

understand how she thinks and where she's coming from. The thing with Bonnie is that you just have to make your case. And make it bulletproof.” “You're a magician.” “I don't know about that, but I do think we're in a pretty good place with Bonnie and her business.” “I'm grateful, boss. You'll have to teach me how you did that.” “You just gotta have a nice conflict,” said John, smiling to himself. “Have a what?” asked Blake. John was still high off his win with Bonnie as he rounded the corner to his street. Nancy had sat through

many stories over the years about the drubbings John had taken from the “evil purchasing agent from Delta.” He was excited to finally share some good news. His time with Mac was really starting to pay off. Then John made the mistake of going inside. The instant he entered the house, he could tell all was not well in the Doyle household. The shrill sobs

from Emma shook the walls—not panicked shrieks of pain but the weary, unrelenting wail of a toddler in need of a pillow and pacifier. Elsewhere in the house, J.J. was shouting something about school. John thought seriously about ducking back into the garage, but Nancy came around the corner in

disaster-cleanup mode, wielding a vacuum cleaner. She met him with a sour look. “You don't answer your texts anymore?” she snapped. “What's going on?” asked John, not really wanting to know the answer. “You have no idea what today's been like, John.” She kept walking, leaving him speechless in the doorway. It was clear to John that his response in this

moment would determine the course of the entire evening. But the more he thought about the right thing to say, the more his thoughts dissolved into incoherence. “Seriously?” Nancy was back, staring at him in astonishment. “You just going to stand in the doorway

all night?” “It's been a long day, Nance,” said John as he moved past her. All he wanted was the opportunity to

drop his briefcase in his home office and maybe steal a minute or two to regroup. “Don't even think about it!” hissed Nancy. “What?” “What do you think? Whenever there's a crisis around this house, you run and hide in your office.” “I'm going to put my stuff down. Is that all right with you?” said John with a punch of sarcasm. “Whatever. See you in an hour.” “I'm not hiding!” John responded sharply. “I just know how emotional you get over every little thing.” John was already on his way down the hall when he heard the vacuum hit the floor. The sound made him

wince. Instantly she was on his heels. “Little things!? You mean like our children?” “Look, Nancy—” “Your son is refusing ever to go back to school!” “Can you just calm down so we can talk about this?” “How about this for calm.” said Nancy, “I'm going to go to the gym for the first time this week, and you

can feed the kids their dinner, you can make sure the homework gets done, and you can get them ready for bed. Then we'll talk about calm.” As Nancy wheeled around and marched away, John's thrill of victory at work was replaced by the

agony of defeat in his own home. How could he have dealt with one conflict so expertly and fallen so flat on his face with the next? Tonight's conflict had happened with an enormous absence of nice. Clearly he needed more help. His next appointment with Dr. Mac was only hours away. Still, it was too far off to avoid sleeping on the sofa that night.

Chapter Seven

The afternoon sun glistened in a brilliant blue sky. The ocean stretched to eternity beyond the weathered rails of the long pier. But inside John's throbbing head, gray clouds churned. Not even this postcard setting could cut his sour mood. The previous night's fight with Nancy had gone unresolved, and John was wallowing in frustration. Just when he thought he was getting a hold of this conflict stuff, he had the wind knocked out of him at home. Halfway down the pier, John began to question whether he was supposed to meet Mac at the end of the

pier or the start. All he could see up ahead of him were a handful of fishermen. A gentle breeze carried with it the rancid smell of dead fish. John immediately regretted being in a suit and tie and began removing his coat. “John!” John turned back and saw Mac, decked out in ratty shorts and a floppy hat, skewering a pink and white

squid on his fishing line. John had walked right past him. “Oh, hey, Doc,” said John, flatly. “I see you dressed for the occasion,” returned Mac as he looked over John's out-of-place silk tie and

dress slacks. “I had a client meeting. I didn't realize we were going to be deep-sea fishing today.” “I love it out here. Great place for conversations.” “And here I thought you liked meeting only in dark places,” said John, recognizing the contrast between

here and his last two meeting spots. “Not on a gorgeous day like today. Beautiful, isn't it?” John shrugged, laid his suit coat over the back of the bench next to Mac, and loosened his tie. Mac studied John, and asked “Everything okay?” “Rough night,” said John, reluctantly. “Started out a great day, but didn't end so well.” “You want to talk about it?” John looked over the rail at the waves crashing below. “Any bites?” “Not yet,” said Mac, letting John's avoidance slide. “But some of the guys were saying the striped bass

were biting. Are you a fisherman?” “Not really,” said John, removing his tie. “I've got an extra rod here for you, if you'd like to give it a try.” Mac readied his stance and prepared to cast his line. John followed the graceful arc of the bait until it

splashed in the water, fifteen yards out. “That's the spot!” said Mac triumphantly. Mac made it look easy. John rolled up the sleeves on his starched shirt and picked up the spare rod and

reel. He figured he could use the distraction. In his younger days, John would go running or meet the guys for a game of basketball to blow off a little steam. But it had been years since he'd done that. Maybe he should try to work some exercise back into his life. It certainly couldn't hurt. “Go ahead, John. Give it a try,” said Mac. The heavy rig felt good in his hands. It had been a lifetime since John had been fishing. He'd never

particularly cared for it—too much waiting around. What he did love was the memories it brought back of

camping with his dad and enjoying the outdoors up in Shasta every summer. Maybe he and J.J. should plan a trip up north with his dad—three generations of Doyles, floating around in his dad's aluminum boat, hunting rainbow trout. John hoped he wouldn't forget to plan something. The rod was already rigged with a large hook and heavy weights for the ocean. John reached into the

small cooler full of squid and gingerly picked one up by a tentacle. “Just push one of those onto your hook,” instructed Mac. “Got it.” By this point, John had given up trying to salvage his clothes and wiped his wet hands on his slacks.

With bait and hook ready, John visualized the “perfect spot” for the cast—just a little farther out from where Mac's line emerged from the water. Then with everything he had, John whipped the pole overhead and released the line. The soft clicking noise stopped abruptly as the reel seized and the tackle jerked back toward him and smacked somewhere underneath the pier. Instantly John felt his face grow hot. A few gentle tugs on the rod failed to free the line. He cranked the reel to try a little more pressure on the line and flicked the rod a few times straight up, then to the right, then to the left. Still the line remained fastened somewhere beneath the pier. John's frustration set in quickly. He had done everything perfectly. Something must have been wrong

with the reel. A few more quick flicks of the pole rendered no results. He stole a glance at Mac, who had to have noticed John's struggle, but Mac's eyes were fixed on the horizon. That's okay, he thought. He didn't really want help anyway. He was confident he could figure this out on his own. John set the rod aside and leaned over the rail, looking for some clue as to where the hook had gotten hung up. When that proved futile, he searched for a possible route down. John quickly ruled that option out as he suddenly felt the height get to him. There was simply nothing he could think of to free his line. John snatched the rod back and started yanking the pole upward. With each increasingly strong snap, the

pole contorted into impossible forms. The damn thing just wasn't going to budge. John knew the battle was lost. Deflated, he dropped the pole against the pier railing and stepped away. So much for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. He was feeling gloomier than ever. “Here.” Mac handed him a pocketknife. Game over. John resigned himself to the failure, leaned as far over the railing as he dared, and

sacrificed the hook with a slice of the blade. “So what happened there, John?” “I cast my line, but something got hung up—” “No, John,” interrupted Mac. “I don't care about the fish story. What happened with you?” He tapped

John on the chest. “In here.” “I just experienced conflict with a pink squid.” “Okay, tell me about it.” John expelled a frustrated laugh. “Every experience is a learning experience, no?” said Mac. John was in no mood to play along. Mac set his rod down and crossed his arms. “Tell me, John,” said Mac. “How long are you going to let conflict control you? How much longer are

you willing to let situations like this ruin your day? Look at it out here. It doesn't get any nicer. And you're moping around like a rain cloud is following you.” “You're right,” John acknowledged. Mac's words helped expose a weariness within him. He really was

tired of the dark cloud. “I'm sorry.”

“No reason to be sorry. I get it. I just don't want you to stay in that place and waste this time we have together.” “Neither do I.” “So tell me about your little fishing adventure. I witnessed something there that I hope you saw too.” “I saw me make a fool of myself,” said John. “When you were casting your line, what was going on in your head?” John considered the question. In an instant he recognized his Red motivational value system calling the

shots—the surge of competitiveness as he watched Mac cast his line flawlessly, the ambition of choosing a spot farther out, how quickly the whole incident had happened. He had barely secured the bait before he was hurling it out into the water. “I saw my goal, I set the bar ridiculously high, and my mind was ten steps ahead of my body,” said John. “That's interesting. What were you thinking about?” “Not the fishing pole, that's for sure. I was thinking about my son, my dad. I hadn't even gotten my hook

in the water, and I was already planning a fishing trip for all of us next summer. I was thinking about how much the equipment must cost…” “You were everywhere but here,” Mac observed. “I guess I do that a lot. My head is in the future while I'm working in the present. I'm always thinking

about the next great accomplishment—the next promotion—and as a result, I rarely enjoy what's happening right now. The present is never good enough.” “And how is that working for you?” “You just saw it. I push too hard and think too little. Or at least think too little about what I'm doing at

the moment. I just put too much force into it, and it came hurtling right back at me.” “Not the first time, I'm guessing.” “Story of my life,” sighed John. Mac picked up John's fishing pole and began to tie on a new hook. John leaned against the rail. “Amazing how we can learn so much about ourselves by screwing up.” “Screwing up but also talking about what went wrong and why. That's the key. And you haven't even

talked about the good stuff yet.” “What do you mean?” asked John. “We figured out how your Red style got you into that predicament, but then I got to witness the entire

John Doyle conflict sequence in vivid color.” John had to think about that one. He remembered the three pools of light on the stage—green, then red,

then blue—representing his unique experience in conflict. It all started to fall into place for him. John responded with part question, part statement: “So conflict doesn't just have to be between people.” “All it takes is for your self-worth to be threatened,” said Mac. “Did you feel that happening?” “My self-worth? I guess I did. But not because I botched the cast. Because I was thinking about J.J.,”

admitted John. “It was like I was failing in front of him. And maybe the competitive side of me was embarrassed to screw up in front of you.” “And you accepted that invitation into conflict.” “What invitation?” “You had a choice, right?” asked Mac. “I suppose.” “Conflict feelings came calling, and you chose to let them in. You allowed those conflict feelings to

progress.” “Which put me into my Green first stage of conflict,” said John. “I got really quiet and cautious trying to

figure out what to do. I was basically trying to analyze my way out of it.” “For a second there, I thought you were going to climb down and wrestle it out by hand.” Mac laughed

and shook his head. “I was tempted.” John was now laughing too. It occurred to him that his black cloud had dissipated. He

felt the warm sun on his back like the arm of a friend. “All for a fifty-cent hook,” said Mac with a wink. “So as soon as you moved out of your cautious,

analysis mode, what happened?” “I traded brain for brawn. I figured it was time to muscle the thing loose. I was frustrated and started to

get more aggressive.” “Stage 2 Red. Did that feel more productive or less productive?” asked Mac. “It felt…I don't know—strangely satisfying at the time, but kind of out of control. I was letting my

temper get to me.” “A few more wild tugs, and you may have found out just how much that equipment costs,” scolded Mac

playfully. “Yeah,” said John. “Like I said, ‘out of control.’ ” “Remember, in stage 2 conflict, your focus narrows to yourself and the problem. The well-being of my

fishing pole was way out of your field of vision.” “I guess operating like that can be costly.” “Very much so. Costly to your relationships too.” Mac let that hang there. John took a seat on the bench as his thoughts immediately jumped to his ex-

salesman Andy Ward, who had given John a scalding review in his exit interview. A few months before he left, Andy had forgotten to pass through a subcontractor price increase to a customer. It had risen into a big issue for all of the parties. John organized an emergency conference call with Andy and his customer and proceeded to hammer Andy on the facts. John was compelled to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Andy was at fault. In the end, the customer agreed to accept the pass-through cost, but that was probably the day Andy started updating his résumé. “It's kind of sickening, actually,” said John “When I think about it, I've always been a staunch advocate

for my team—would do whatever it takes to get them what they need to succeed. But when my feet are put to the fire, it's all about number one.” “Sounds unproductive,” offered Mac. The words from Andy's exit interview put a searing brand on his consciousness: “John Doyle was the

main reason I started looking for another job.” John wondered how many conflicts he had “won” in stage 2 at the expense of the relationship. And if he was really so interested in the future, why was he was taking short-term victories that led to long-term losses? Was he grabbing short-term victories at home too? He could not bear the thought of a long-term loss at home. “I gotta stop going there,” said John sincerely. “Now there's a worthy goal for you,” Mac affirmed. “Don't let yourself slide into stage 2 conflict.” Mac finished attaching the weights to the line and rested the rod against the railing. He took a seat next

to John. “Why do you think you let yourself go to stage 2 today?” asked Mac. “There was no way that stupid hook was going to beat me. Not today.”

“And yet…” “It beat me,” said John. “Nooo!” kidded Mac. “You let a squid and a fifty-cent hook take you all the way to stage 3 conflict?

That dark, dreaded place?” “If you want the fifty cents, I have it in my car.” “Don't worry about it,” said Mac. “It was worth every penny. In less than ninety seconds, you got to live

out your entire conflict sequence.” John thought about that final surrender he had just experienced. Stage 3 wasn't a place he had gone often

—maybe only three or four times. They had been very unpleasant situations that he hoped to avoid ever seeing again. In fact, that place of defeat was why he argued so hard after his logic had failed him. In many ways, it wasn't about being right; it was about making sure he didn't get pushed to that last resort, where he would totally surrender. “Stage 3 is an ugly place to be,” said John. “But it will always be lurking there—waiting for you to visit should you choose to. That's what I meant

by a predictable pattern. The emotional roller-coaster you went through with this rod and reel is what you're likely to go through with conflict unless you resolve it or let it go.” “If I choose to,” said John with extra emphasis. “Exactly!” said Mac. “You, my friend, are well on your way to having a nice conflict.” “Boy, I hope so.” Mac held out a second small ice chest, and John took a soda with a nod of thanks. “There are really five keys to having a nice conflict,” said Mac as he popped the top off an iced tea.

“Everything we've talked about thus far has given you the basic tools to excel in these areas; you need to anticipate conflict, know ways to prevent conflict, be able to identify conflict, know how to manage conflict, and find ways to resolve conflict. As you build skill in each of these areas, you'll find yourself enjoying productive, rewarding relationships with nearly everyone in your life.” John grabbed his note pad to jot down the list. “And don't worry,” said Mac. “We'll take a closer look at each one. But first, I'm curious how your

meeting went with your client. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get back to you in time.” “That's okay. Actually it was downright perfect.” “See, you're an expert already.” “Well, I thought so. Until I got home.” “Oh,” said Mac. “Well, tell me about the meeting. I always like the good news first.” “Like I said in my message, one of my biggest clients was threatening to take her business elsewhere.

Her name's Bonnie; she's a real nightmare and usually makes me crazy. But all through the morning, leading up to the conference call, I recounted all my past interactions with her and realized she was probably a blend of Red and Green. I thought about her role and realized that my experiences with her gave me a lot to go on in terms of what was important to her.” “So you anticipated how she might act and react. Good.” “I know she values a lot of facts and figures, and Red-Greens are all about strategy and fairness. So I

came into that conference call with all the right data and a foolproof strategy that would appeal to her. I knew she couldn't resist a plan that would be equitable to both of us.” “And did it work?” “Like a charm,” said John proudly.

“So you respected her motivational value system and delivered your message in her language. And that prevented conflict from happening?” asked Mac. “I think she was taken a little off-guard at first; we've done this dance before. She seemed a little

cautious there for a minute. But after we started rolling, all was well. A few times, I had to bite my tongue and resist the temptation to go into conflict. She has a way of pushing my buttons.” “And were you successful in not accepting that invitation to conflict?” asked Mac expectantly. John smiled, “I hung up on that conflict like it was a telemarketer at suppertime.” “Excellent. So you were able to identify the early signs of conflict and manage yourself and her through

them.” “I guess so. Yes. It was amazing. I'd had negotiations with her four other times, and this time—it just—I

don't know…” “It was nice!” exclaimed Mac with a broad smile. “Yes, it was nice,” agreed John. “But then I went home.” “Uh-oh.” “Not so nice,” said John, wincing. “What did you do?” “I didn't do anything!” “Unfortunately, that's the Achilles' heel of the first-stage Green: not doing anything,” admitted Mac. “I

struggle with it, too. My wife says it's a disease. She calls it ‘deer in the headlights-i-tis.’ ” “I literally walked in the door, and Nancy was on me. I heard the kids crying and immediately knew that

the day hadn't gone well for her. I could hear it in the tone of her voice. I knew she was in conflict, but I just choked.” John stood up and started pacing. “One minute I feel like I'm really getting all this, and then the next, I'm falling flat on my face,” said

John, with a tinge of desperation. “Okay, but these are two completely different situations.” “But I want to have good outcomes consistently.” “Of course you do. But you can't compare these two instances and get down on yourself. Don't you see

how they differ?” asked Mac. “One was home, and one was work?” “Well, yes, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.” “Then I'm not getting your point.” “Let's play it this way.” Mac joined John at the railing. “Let's say it's 3:00 P.M., and you get a voice

mail from your wife that gives you the whole scoop about how much of a disaster her day has been. With three hours and a drive home to prepare, do you think you'd have walked through that door a bit more prepared to deal with it productively?” John smiled and shook his head. “With the Bonnie situation, I had some time to prepare. I had advance

notice. I was able to play it through in my head before it actually occurred.” “Now let's reverse it. What if you arrived at work yesterday and found Bonnie sitting in your office

unannounced and ready to jump in the ring with you?” John laughed. “I doubt you'd have been so pleased with the outcome,” said Mac. “Oh, it would have been a disaster,” agreed John. “So how do I get better at those surprise attacks?”

“Well, let's start with the first of those five keys of conflict. To become better at preventing and managing conflict, the first thing you have to do is be on the lookout for it—even expect it,” said Mac, picking up his rod and slowly reeling it in. “Expect conflict? That sounds a little depressing.” “It's about knowing the people you are in a relationship with well enough to know what's important to

them—know what gives them self-worth and how they prefer to operate. Then you're better prepared to respond to them quickly and effectively. In our last meeting, we made an educated guess that Nancy hails from the nurturing Blue corner of the triangle. Did you keep that in mind when you walked through the door?” “No. I pretty much just mentally ran away,” admitted John. “I want you to begin asking yourself how people with different motivational values would view a

situation and to consider their conflict triggers. If you can do that, you're likely to use a different approach and avoid pulling those triggers.” “Conflict triggers?” asked John. “People go into conflict about things that are important to them—values that are tied to their sense of

self-worth. So part of anticipating conflict is having a sense of what words or actions might threaten someone's self-worth and push them into conflict—their conflict triggers.” “When I think about it like that,” reflected John, “I can see exactly what triggered Nancy's conflict last

night. Emma was crying about everything because she didn't have a nap. Nancy wanted to do something to help her feel better, but Emma just needed to go to bed and she hadn't had her dinner yet. On top of that, J.J. was struggling with his math homework but refused to let Nancy help him with it. She wanted to support him, but he was refusing her help—an affront to her self-worth. And then I walk in, and she interprets my Green reaction to the chaos as my being detached and not caring—also an important aspect of her self-worth.” “Well done. Now if you had just kept Nancy's supportive, nurturing values in mind the second you saw

her?” “I would have understood what was triggering her conflict and would have been much quicker at

finding the right response to her.” “The great thing about knowing where someone sits on the triangle is that it shortens the list of possible

responses. As you stood there last night in first-stage Green conflict, racking your brain for the right words, you were probably all over the map with options. But knowing she's Blue, the list becomes more manageable. She wants helping, supporting, and caring from you.” “Totally makes sense,” said John. “And I can see how that would work with everyone I know as long as

I know their color on the triangle. But what about everyone else? I don't suppose everyone can just wear a sign indicating their color?” “I've worked with clients who did just that. They posted each employee's motivational values system

colors on his or her office door or cubicle. But clearly that's not always possible, so you have to learn to rely on your powers of inquiry and observation to assess whom you're dealing with.” “I don't think I have those powers,” sighed John. “You can develop them.” “How?” “Think about when we started working together—before we really got into all this. I asked what was

important to you, what kind of environment you found most rewarding. You had no problem finding answers for those questions.”

“True.” “You were pretty quick to know what drove you crazy and why.” “And that means what?” asked John. “Well, how would someone you had a relationship with—a coworker, a boss, a friend, even your wife

—know those things about you?” “If that person was observant, I guess he or she would pick up on a lot of it,” said John. “But the easiest

way would be to just ask me.” “That's inquiry and observation,” said Mac. “How often are you asking questions like that?” “Like, ‘What's your motivation?’ ” “Well it can be more subtle than that. Keep in mind that motivation is all about why. Why is that

important to you? Why do you like working here? Why does that bug you? And then listen carefully for the reasons. The reasons will guide you right to the heart of what people value. And what you hear from a Blue will often sound very different from what you hear from a Green or a Red or someone in the Hub, like me.” “I can imagine. But how do you do it and make it seem natural?” “Well first off, it should become natural. Being in a relationship with someone should be about really

knowing that person—respecting and valuing that person,” said Mac. “And the fact is, people generally like talking about themselves.” “So it's not just me?” said John with a smirk. “The next time you meet someone, get to know them—don't just ‘Rolodex’ them and jot down their

information. People are so much more than a name and place of business. Find out who they are. You'll instantly light a spark of closeness that you may never have experienced before in a twenty-second exchange.” “Get to know them in twenty seconds?” “You don't need their life story. Just figure out what language they're speaking. It's amazing the

difference you'll notice immediately. Both of you will feel it.” “Okay. I can do that.” “All right. Prove it,” said Mac with a mischievous smile. “Is that a challenge?” asked John. “See those two guys down there?” Mac pointed down the pier where two fishermen stood side by side,

tending a row of fishing rods. “Go have a quick chat and come back and tell me what you think their motivational value system is.” “Seriously? What do I talk to them about?” “Doesn't matter. Just meet them and practice inquiry and observation.” “Okay, fine. I'll do it,” said John, sizing them up. “Oh, but you have only a few minutes. We've still got work to do here,” said Mac, as he launched John's

new hook out into the water—another perfect cast. John was quickly approaching the two men before it hit him that he might not get anywhere if they

mistook him for some nut job; the pinstripe shirt and slacks were already working against him. So he slowed to a more casual pace and stuck his hands in his pocket. He looked the two men over to see if there might be clues in their appearance. The older man had a

large brace on his left knee. He was dressed more warmly than he needed to be; perhaps he had been here

since dawn. Curly gray hair peeked out from under his cap. The other man was shorter and stockier— probably around thirty years old. He was dressed in a camouflage T-shirt and jeans. He could hear them chatting, and they burst into laughter as John reached the railing beside them. John

looked back at Mac, who gave him the thumbs-up. John had to chuckle to himself at how silly this felt. It reminded him of the old days of approaching a woman at a nightclub with his buddies back at the table cheering him on. He guessed it was time for his pickup line: “Having any luck out here?” The two men turned, noticing John for the first time. The older man spoke first, “Not too bad. A few

bass.” “We've been using squid,” said John, trying to sound as if he knew what he was talking about. “Haven't

gotten a bite.” “Try mackerel or bunker,” advised the younger man. “Oh, yeah?” “I got plenty of mackerel if you need some,” offered the older man. “Maybe. Thanks,” said John, starting to worry that the conversation was becoming too much about fish. “You always fish in your Sunday best?” asked the younger man. “No, I was just meeting a friend out here on my lunch break. I'm a bit of a novice behind a reel.” “It's a great hobby,” said the younger man. “What do you like about it?” asked John, fishing for some motivational clues. “Fishing? I like the whole process. Picking just the right spot. Picking the lures. Plus, my five kids hate

it. It's my own little vacation out of the house—just me and my thoughts.” John was pretty sure those sounded like Green reasons. He figured he'd float some verbal bait and see if

he was right. “I'm guessing you do your homework,” said John. “Check the tide schedules, know what's biting when?” The younger man just smiled and removed a folded wad of papers from his back pocket, “What do you

want to know?” Bingo, John thought. He looked to the older man, “How about you? What brings you out here—besides

this amazing weather?” “I'm here for the fish!” the old man said proudly. “And to talk my ear off,” added the younger man. “So you're in it for the sport?” asked John, testing for Red. “No, I'm really here for the fish. Got a family to take care of. Broke my leg, and they put me on

disability, but it's peanuts compared to what I was making at the plant. The wife picked up another shift, but I'm still gonna do whatever it takes to help where I can.” John was thinking, Perhaps a Red-Blue blend. He tested the water: “So you're here because you want

to actively do your part to help your family.” “I'm of no use sitting on my big behind watching People's Court. And the fish don't seem to care I got a

bum leg.” “Makes sense to me,” said John. “Well I'll let you get back to it.” “Hey, when you're ready to learn how to fish like a pro, I'm here most days,” offered the older man. “I just might take you up on that,” said John. “Have a good rest of your day.” John strutted back to Mac, a toothy smile on his face. “Success?” asked Mac.

“Old guy's a Red-Blue, and the younger guy's a Green.” “Is that right? And how do you know?” “Old guy's working hard to help his family, and the young guy's all about the process.” “So let's assume you got those reasons right. Do you necessarily know their motivational value

system?” “Sure, it was easy and kinda fun.” John said, proudly. Mac laughed. “I guess for you I turned getting to know people into a game—a challenge. But I want to

caution you here. You made a good first step, but it's important not to make judgments about people too quickly. You got clues from each of them by asking questions that elicited reasons—or motives—in the answer. But a motivational value system is a pattern of motives, and every person has some of every color. Even you sometimes do things for reasons that might sound Blue or Green, right?” “I suppose that's true,” said John. “For the record, I did get more than one reason from each of them.” “And you may be absolutely right about them. But it takes more than a couple data points to show a

trend.” “So I may know the reason they are here fishing today,” said John, “but I still don't really know their

whole motivational value system?” “Not with certainty,” said Mac. “Then what's the point?” “It's more than you knew five minutes ago. And it's an important start—one that will improve your

communication choices moving forward,” explained Mac. “I'm just cautioning you not to be so quick to declare that you know a person's motivational value system.” “Heck, I don't even know their names. But I know I'm right about those guys. I nailed it,” said John with

a confident grin. Mac laughed. “Okay, John.” “The Red in me just wishes there was some kind of reward.” “How about I buy you a snow cone?” offered Mac, motioning to the snow cone cart by the edge of the

beach. John laughed, “Deal.” Mac began reeling in his line. In his bare feet, John tried to navigate around the small rocks that slowed his progress across the sand.

This was accomplished while attempting to eat his lime snow cone with his dress shoes and socks pinned under his arm. Mac trudged on a few steps ahead. “Anticipating conflict starts with knowing whom you're dealing with,” said Mac. “Then you have to ask

yourself how people with different motivational values might view a situation. When two or more people see things differently, the potential is there for conflict. If you can figure that out, you have a good shot at steering clear of it.” “Okay, let's say I can see a potential conflict coming. How do I stop it?” “That's when it's time to take action to prevent conflict—the second key.” Mac found a suitable spot on the beach and plopped down next to his coolers and fishing poles. John

stood there, looking at his suit and shoes and wondering if they'd be salvageable after the beating they'd taken. With a sigh, he tossed them onto the sand and sat down next to Mac. “Anticipating is something you do in your head, but preventing is where the rubber meets the road. In

your conference call with Bonnie, you figured out what part of the triangle she hailed from and prepared yourself. When that call began, you had to put all that anticipation into action. So tell me: Knowing that she was a Red-Green, how did you modify your behavior to prevent conflict?” “Obviously Red is easy for me, so I just had to act a little more Green than I'm used to. I slowed

everything down and acknowledged her role as a good steward of her company's resources. From there, I methodically walked through our service record and the competitive landscape. I tried to stay calm and listen to all her concerns. And when she raised objections, I think I was able to give a firm but logical response.” “Based on your top strengths, I'd say you had to rummage through some of the deeper drawers in your

tool box to pull that off.” “I guess I did, and it wasn't always easy. But I knew I had to somehow keep her on board without giving

away the store.” “What you did there so adeptly is what we call borrowing. It's choosing a nonpreferred behavior to

achieve a result that is productive in a relationship.” “By ‘nonpreferred,’ do you mean those strengths from the middle drawers in your toolbox?” “Yes. Effective borrowing typically comes out of those middle strengths—not too high or too low on

your chart. They are behaviors you can call on in a pinch to get the job done right. In your call with Bonnie, you eased up on the competitive and the ambitious and brought out the methodical and reserved.” “Yeah, I guess I knew that if I jumped into a hard sell and made it a competition about price haggling,

the whole conversation would spiral down pretty fast,” said John. “By borrowing, you had more productive communication and a better business result—and that's what

it's all about.” “It sure felt good,” added John. “After the call, Blake, my salesman, was so blown away by how great it

had gone that he asked me to coach him.” “Fluid, productive communication can feel pretty fantastic. The key to preventing conflict is figuring out

how to get your intent across in a way that they can relate to and in a way that won't be misinterpreted. You do that by borrowing—as you did with Bonnie—but you also do that by using your top strengths appropriately.” “Like not overdoing a strength,” recalled John. “Exactly. If people misperceive or misinterpret what you're doing because you're misusing a strength,

then your communication is tainted. Your intent is lost, and the potential for conflict rises.” “What if you don't even realize you're overdoing the strength?” asked John. “If you can anticipate how a person may interpret your strengths, you can take steps to prevent it coming

across as overdone.” “Like with Gail,” said John. “She values being cautious and thinking things through. So I need to be

careful with my quick to act strength around her.” “Yes. You can prevent a lot of conflict with her just by regulating the volume on that one. It's a behavior

that's probably a real conflict trigger for her because acting quickly pushes her to operate way out of her comfort zone.” “Let me see if I've got it,” said John. “Preventing conflict is really all about the deliberate, appropriate

use of strengths in your relationships.” “Exactly,” said Mac, proudly. “Anticipating and preventing conflict are strategies to attempt a

preemptive strike on conflict. A well-chosen behavior on your part can prevent conflict with another

person. But you need to prevent conflict in yourself sometimes too—and that might have more to do with choosing your perceptions than choosing your behaviors. However, even our best efforts can fail. There will be times where your self-worth is threatened and accepting that invitation is inevitable for yourself or someone else. That's why it's important to get better at identifying conflict.” “Yeah, that's an important one,” said John. “I seem to be missing the signs with Nancy and not realizing

she's there until it's too late.” “Exactly. You're not recognizing her conflict until she's risen to stage 2 Red. And trust me, John, you

will have a much better outcome if you can deal with the conflict in stage 1.” “I'll sleep better too,” said John, rubbing his stiff neck. “So it's critical to learn to spot the three basic approaches taken in conflict: the Blue accommodating,

the Red rising to the challenge, or the Green cautious analysis. And these approaches can be arranged in any sequence for a person.” “How can you tell what stage someone is in?” asked John. “Chances are you won't—at least not until you've truly mastered the nuances of all this. While it's best

to address conflict in stage 1, you probably won't know if you're witnessing the first or second stage of a color unless you know someone well or know their inventory results. The conflict sequence is going to show up in different ways for different people. So the most helpful advice is to learn to identify all the different colors of conflict.” “It seems like Red is the easiest one to spot,” said John. “I'd say that's true,” agreed Mac. “Mainly because it's the most unrestrained and vocal approach. People

who use Red first would say they're just rising to the challenge being offered.” John thought of Randy urging him to push back and get tough with Bonnie during the negotiation. Randy

was never one to back down when someone challenged him. “You know Green because you live it,” continued Mac. “People who use Green first want to step back,

be cautious, and make sense of it all. They get quiet or demand facts or examples.” “Yep, that's me,” agreed John. “I guess the one I'm really struggling with is Blue. If Nancy is a Blue

when everything is fine, what do I look for to distinguish whether she's slipped into conflict?” “People who initially use a Blue approach would probably say they are trying to keep the peace and

accommodate the needs of others. They want to smooth things over.” “I get that, but it's just so subtle,” said John, discouraged. “Remember, you're looking for a shift. Even someone moving from a Blue motivational value system to

Blue conflict will show a subtle shift. You need to look for the clues. With Blue, they may start to fidget, clear their throat, or show some other sign of discomfort. They'll sometimes sit back and hope others will take care of the issue, so they don't have to face it. You'll often see someone in Blue conflict feeling bad or accepting the blame. And they don't want to fuel the fire, so they stop sharing how they feel. Now there's a clue for you!” “How so?” “When things are going well, is Nancy shy about sharing her feelings with you?” asked Mac. “No.” “There you go. Ask a person in Blue first-stage conflict if they're okay and you'll start getting short,

canned answers like, ‘Oh, no, I'm fine,’ or ‘No problem.’ Conflict makes them uncomfortable so they go from freely sharing to wanting to direct attention elsewhere.” “Wow,” said John. “When you say it like that, she has been giving me plenty of warning signs. I think

I've been missing them for a very long time.” “But now you know what to look for. Spotting the shift in motivation and those subtle clues of conflict

are especially difficult with people like Nancy whose conflict color is so close to their motivational value system. But by raising your awareness and successfully spotting it in stage 1, you can avoid the pain and suffering of stage 2 or 3.” “My boss, Gail, has a pretty good poker face, too,” said John. “Sometimes I don't know how she feels

about what I'm doing. Happy or mad, she's a blank screen. It's not until later that it comes out that something I did or said really bothered her. I'm blindsided.” “It goes back to gaining that understanding of what motivates the person, what their values and priorities

are. Of course, you have to answer those questions for yourself as well. And only then can you identify where there could be a clash in styles. You'll have anticipated and identified conflict, even with people who don't show much change.” “I suppose I could just ask if something is bothering her,” said John, as if struck by the obvious. Mac looked over at him and smiled, “Asking sincere and appropriate questions with the intent of

preventing or managing conflict is almost never a bad idea.” John was staring out at the ocean as a wave crashed louder than he had noticed before. The two men

watched as the water pushed forward toward their spot with unrestrained force. John looked over at Mac, who didn't flinch. John readied for a quick retreat but the creeping water stopped three feet from their toes and receded as quickly as it had approached. “Tide's coming in,” said Mac. “Why don't we pick this up later.” Mac stood and brushed the sand off. John glanced at his note pad. “What about manage conflict and resolve conflict?” asked John. His own voice reminded him of his

daughter's—as if pleading for another ride on the carousel. “Oh, those are good ones.” “You're going to leave me hanging?” “I'm going to leave you with some advice, John,” said Mac, picking up his fishing equipment. “From

one first-stage Green husband to another, call your wife and apologize about last night. I don't know how much you've told her about the work we're doing together, but she might be less upset if she understood how you process conflict. You don't want her continuing to think you're this cold, uncaring guy because you're not.” They were simple words, but the sincerity in Mac's eyes warmed John to his core. They energized him,

and the dread he felt about going home that evening had been replaced by anticipation. He turned and saw that Mac was now already halfway to the street. “Thanks, Mac!” John called out. Mac turned and acknowledged him with a smile.

Chapter Eight

You bought new clothes,” observed Nancy, as she sipped her wine. “Yeah, my other ones smelled like Fisherman's Wharf,” said John. Nancy's eyebrows furrowed as she laughed. “What? Why?” “Long story.” John had in fact headed straight to the mall after leaving the beach. He had made the reservation for

their favorite restaurant from the car, and—for the first time ever—he had bought roses from a man with a bucket on the side of the road. He realized the whole “flowers-in-hand apology” was a bit of a cliché. But the fact that John had never actually done it himself gave it a flair of originality. At least, that's how he rationalized it. “You were able to get the kids covered?” asked John. “Yeah, my mom came over.” John nodded and drained the wine from his glass. He sensed an awkwardness that proved the dust had

yet to settle between them despite his uncharacteristic attempt at chivalry. He felt the heavy weight of Green conflict tugging on his thoughts. He considered excusing himself for a trip to the restroom but fought back the urge—determined to take action. After all, confronting the drama from the night before was why he was here. “I suppose we should talk about last night,” said John. “Look, I'm sorry about how I acted,” said Nancy, striking first. “No. You have no need to apologize. This is my apology.” “Are we going to fight over who gets to apologize?” Nancy smiled. “How sad would that be?” “Very. Anyway, I shouldn't have jumped down your throat the second you walked in the door. It wasn't

very considerate on my part.” “Well, I realize the day had been kind of a disaster for you,” said John. “I could have handled it a lot

better. I want you to know I'm really working on that.” “I know you are,” said Nancy, as she raised her glass. “And I accept your apology.” John finished refilling his glass from the bottle chilling in the stand next to their table. He met his glass

with hers in a toast. “And I, yours.” Nancy pulled back her glass, mid-sip. “Oh! I almost forgot. I have some good news!” “What kind of news?” “I received my first signed contract today. A big freelance gig with that nonprofit I was telling you

about.” “Really? Congratulations!” said John, as they reclinked their glasses. “How much?” “How much? You mean money? I don't know. Enough.” John could sense the annoyance building in her words. Money may have been a motivator for him but

never for her. He mentally put his Blue glasses on and tried to dig his way back out. “Sorry,” said John. “You know me—all about the negotiation. That's wonderful news, Nancy. You're so

good at helping people, and I know how much it means to you to get back out there.” “Yeah, it'll be nice being of service to someone who actually values what I can do for them. The kids

sure don't.” “Oh, that's not true. Whether they say it or not, they appreciate all that you do. We all do. You're

amazing.” “Thanks,” said Nancy with a heartfelt smile. “When do you start?” “Monday,” she said with a tinge of dread. “It's going to keep me pretty busy over the next three weeks.” Nancy must have seen behind John's smile as he assessed what that would mean for him in terms of

carting the kids around and being home on time. “We talked about this,” she reminded him. “I know. It's fine. I'm genuinely happy for you.” “I can have my mother help out more.” “No, I got it,” said John. “You do so much for me and the kids, the least I can do is give you an

opportunity to do something for yourself.” Nancy tilted her head and grinned, “Okay, who are you and what have you done with my husband?” “What?” asked John, innocently. “You're being so…” “Mooshy?” “I was going to say, ‘Perfect.’ Is Cyrano de Bergerac sitting behind you?” “I've just been learning a lot about how I can be managing my relationships better.” “I thought these meetings were all about conflict.” “Well, yes. They're about managing conflict,” said John, “but they're also about preventing it altogether.

And that starts with knowing the people in my life better and interacting with them in a more productive way. The best way to deal with conflict is never having to get there in the first place.” “Well you've made quite an about-face since last night.” “It's really starting to click for me. Dr. Mac is helping me understand that the way I see the world can be

pretty different from how you or Gail or anyone else sees it.” “And how do you see it?” “I'm a Red—an Assertive-Directing—which means I'm usually focused on tasks, getting the job done,

and getting results. It also means that I like challenging, fast-moving, and competitive environments, where I have the opportunity for recognition and advancement.” “Well that explains why you're taking this missed promotion so hard.” “Yeah. That job was really important to me. I value success, and I work hard to get it. When I didn't get

the promotion, it felt as if my values were being threatened.” “But you still have your family and friends, a good job, nice house—you have a lot to be thankful for.

There'll be other promotions.” “And you're absolutely right. But see, you don't value those Red things like results and task

accomplishment the way I do, so it's harder for you to understand why it tore me up the way that it did.” “So what do I value?” asked Nancy. “Well, you'll need to take the inventory,” returned John with a smile. “But I have my guesses.” “Based on how you've laid it on so far tonight, I'd say you've guessed right.”

John smiled. “You're my true Blue, honey. Motivated by helping and protecting other people. You want to help make a difference in people's lives—hence your giving away your talent to that nonprofit.” “Hey, I'm making money,” said Nancy, playfully. “Does my assessment sound right to you?” asked John. “Uh, yeah,” offered Nancy. “So a lot of times, those differences between you and me can get us into trouble if we don't quite

understand them. Before I started all this, I just assumed you saw the world the same way I did, and as a result, I sometimes saw your behavior as weird or counterproductive and got really frustrated by it.” “So now you understand me better?” “I'm not just understanding you. I'm respecting the way you see things. This stuff really helps you value

what people are bringing to the table.” “Sounds like really amazing work you're doing, John.” “And I haven't even gotten to the conflict sequence.” “Conflict is a sequence?” John nodded. “In three stages. And it reveals how people change their motivation and behavior during

conflict. We're just trying to protect what's important to us and work our way back to a place where we feel good about ourselves.” “Wow. Now you've lost me,” said Nancy. “Remember the way I reacted last night when I came in the door?” “You didn't react at all. You just stood there.” “Exactly. Did that look like a man who's a hard-charging Red?” “Not at all.” “Because in the face of conflict, I changed.” “Into a statue?” John laughed. “Maybe I looked like a statue, but that was my first-stage Green conflict. For me, I deal

with conflict by needing to step back and think it through. It's a very analytical process that happens to me.” Nancy considered that for a moment. “That totally makes sense. You've always kind of shut down or run

away.” “But only because I need a minute to process it all. It's not hiding; it's preparing.” “I never considered that,” said Nancy. “Because in the past we haven't understood how we're different, it's led to conflict between us. As we

start to understand and appreciate how differently we operate, I think we could have an even better relationship and spend less time in conflict.” “I love the sound of that,” said Nancy. “And this is going to help me in all of my relationships—both at work and home.” “So what do I do in conflict?” Now she was curious. “I used to think you went Red first—ready to start swinging. But as I've learned more about how

conflict works, I'm pretty sure Red is your second stage of conflict. You initially go Blue in conflict.” “Which means what?” “You accommodate—try to keep the peace.” “Well, a lot of conflict is just not worth getting into,” she said defensively. “I just want to smooth things

over so we can move on.” “See? I'm right! First-stage Blue,” exclaimed John. “Okay. Congratulations, smart guy.” “Sorry. I've just been screwing this up for so long I'm kind of excited to start getting it right. Things are

going to be a whole lot better, I think.” “I think so too,” said Nancy, raising her glass. “If we keep toasting, we're going to need to order another bottle of wine,” said John, smiling broadly. “Knock, knock,” said John, as he stuck his head into Gail's office. “Is now still a good time?” Gail swiveled away from her computer screen and peered at him over her glasses, “Sure, John. You're

right on time. Have a seat.” John settled into one of the chairs in front of Gail's desk and placed a file folder within reach on the

empty chair next to him. He had started training himself to picture a colored glow around people as he interacted with them. Currently he was envisioning a thick, Green halo radiating above Gail's tight hair bun. It was a silly game he played, but so far, it was working for him. “I appreciate you making time for me today,” said John. “I know our weekly check-in is normally on

Friday, but I wanted to provide some info on a new opportunity I've been cultivating. I thought I should give you some time with the data before our meeting at the end of the week.” “Sounds good. Let's see what you have.” “Great,” he said, as he grabbed the folder. “There're a lot of moving parts with this one, so please feel

free to stop me if you have any questions or if I miss something.” “All right.” “So a couple of weeks ago, I was finally able to meet with Roger Hutchins, the COO at Ambrose

Industries.” “Really,” said Gail, shifting forward in her seat. “We've been trying to get in front of Hutchins for

almost two years.” “I know. I was starting to think he didn't actually exist,” said John. “To be fair, Lisa Meyer, my new rep

who works the Ambrose account, has done a great job networking with some key people, and she deserves the credit. Lisa invited me to be part of the meeting with Mr. Hutchins when all of the pieces fell into place.” “Lisa Meyer, huh? Bring in a copy of her résumé on Friday,” said Gail, intrigued by the potential of a

new rising star. “How did your meeting go?” John smiled. He was instantly struck with the urge to boast about his expert handling of Hutchins. He'd

been in rare form that day, and the negotiation had been perfect. It was all John could do to keep from jumping straight to the outcome. But there was that big Green glow reminding him to stick to the plan— keep it nice and organized. “Well, the meeting lasted over an hour, but the short version is that he's open to using our products

exclusively if we're willing to partner with them on a new marketing campaign and share in the development costs associated with integrating our new components. I don't think I have to tell you how big this is. If we're willing to come to the table, I think he'll move forward with us.” John watched as Gail just sat there, slowly nodding. Against his better judgment, he couldn't resist

adding one little Red starburst to the pitch, “This could be a game changer for both companies.” “It sounds promising, but there are a lot of details to consider—a lot of questions to be answered. I

hope you don't expect an answer from me today, because this is going to take some pretty detailed analysis.” John realized he was at the conflict crossroads. Of course, he wanted an answer right away, but if he

pushed Gail into conflict, this deal might never get done. He took a deep breath and wrestled his quick to act back into his tool belt. “I completely understand. There's a lot of complexity with this one, and we'd be crazy not to do our

homework and make sure we can justify the investment. I've already begun looking at the numbers, and I'd like to share some of the research I've started. I'm hoping you can let me know what questions I still should be asking. Then we can regroup on Friday.” “When is Ambrose expecting an answer?” asked Gail. “I told Hutchins that we would need to do our due diligence, and he agreed. We're not meeting again

until next month. In the meantime, he gave me access to his key operations and marketing guys for ongoing dialogue. It looks like they're going to be pretty open with their information.” “That's good, John. If we have that kind of access, we should be able to make an informed decision in

that amount of time. Where are you on the research?” John handed her a thin, spiral-bound document. “I had Jane in Business Analytics run a forecast using four scenarios. The one that looks best to me is on

top, and the other three follow. Leslie in Marketing helped me with the business case. You'll see that the marketing spend is outlined in section 2 along with detailed budgets for the campaign. I'm sure their guys will want to chime in, but I think we've given them a good starting point—at least enough to make a conservative estimate of our costs.” Gail leaned back in her chair, her head already buried in the data. After a thick silence where John

could swear he heard his own pulse, she peered over the top of the document. “We may want to talk to legal.” “I thought so too,” said John, hiding a smile. “Our associate counsel is reviewing it and promised to e-

mail us his opinion in advance of our Friday meeting.” Gail closed the document and placed it squarely on her desk. “I have to say, John, I am thoroughly impressed.” “With my research or the fact that I was able to wait two weeks before telling you I got to Hutchins?”

said John smiling. “Both,” said Gail. “And frankly, your timing couldn't be more opportune.” Her voice grew quiet as she

glanced out the door. “There's a rumor that the new chairman of the board is likely to show up for an unannounced meeting sometime soon.” “Philip Keyes is coming here? Should I be worried?” “We all should be. He's been getting pretty vocal about his displeasure with this division of the

corporation. I think he's coming in to shake things up. It's anyone's guess what that might mean.” John felt the Green wave of first-stage conflict crash over him. Keyes had recently bought enough shares

of Starr to secure himself a position on the board and had quickly been elected chairman. He was notorious for walking into the companies his corporation owned and wreaking havoc. A cost cutter, ruthless, vindictive, watch what you say, don't get noticed—and avoid at all costs. He was rumored to have visited one company and ordered everyone on even-numbered floors laid off. John knew that as word of Keyes's impending visit spread through the halls of Starr Industries, conflict was going to surge from every corner of the building.

Chapter Nine

Boiled, fried, or scrambled?” asked the bubbly twenty-something waitress. “It's anyone's guess,” sighed John. “Come again?” she asked, befuddled. “Don't mind him,” said Mac. “He's in conflict.” “Oh,” she said, staring blankly. “Why don't I give you all another minute.” “Thanks,” said Mac. The morning sun streamed in through the windows of the downtown diner. John was wishing he had his

sunglasses as he stared at the moving shadow produced by the coffee cup he rotated on the table. “You don't even know if anything's going to happen,” said Mac. “It doesn't matter. Everyone is freaking out anyway.” “Good time to test your skills.” “Skills.” said John, gloomily. “Why does it feel as if you taught me the dog paddle and now I'm being

thrown into the middle of the ocean?” “Believe me, John. You're practically a triathlete. Look at what you've already been able to do in your

relationships at work and at home.” “I know. I guess I'm just feeling a little…” “Green?” suggested Mac. “You could use this opportunity to be a real example for your coworkers.

How far would that go toward changing any lingering misperceptions of you?” John finally looked up from his coffee. “Look, don't worry,” reassured Mac. “Today is all about navigating conflict that already exists. We've

looked at how to prevent it and identify it. Now we'll take on managing it.” John exhaled deeply. “You're going to come out of this diner a master,” promised Mac. “But first you have to come back.” “Come back from where?” asked John, wearily. “Your cave. Or whatever dark place you go in Green conflict. I need you present. We're not going to get

anywhere with you in conflict. When we're stuck in a place of protecting our self-worth, it's much harder to help others protect or restore what's important to them. And that's the primary mission of managing conflict.” “Helping them out of conflict?” “Not quite. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions that empower others to manage

themselves out of their emotional state of conflict. It's also about managing yourself out. What I'm asking of you right now is what you need to be able to do later.” “You can't rescue someone who's drowning when you're drowning too. Is that the idea?” asked John. “Exactly! To effectively manage conflict, we have to begin with ourselves,” Mac made a fist and hit his

chest, producing two dull thuds. “It starts right here. If we're pulled into conflict ourselves, we're usually not in a great position to help others.” “I think I scared the waitress away,” said John. Mac gave her a wave from across the restaurant. “Like most everything we've talked about,” said Mac, “it's a choice. As soon as we know what's

happening under the hood, we have to take responsibility for it. If you're feeling the conflict right now, just choose out of it.” “Simple as that?” “You're in charge, remember?” Mac smiled. “That's not to say you won't feel that Green shift, but use

that first-stage shift like a smoke alarm—an alert system. If you were sitting in your house and the smoke detector went off, would you keep sitting there, or would you take some sort of action?” “Action,” said John. “And that action would depend on the situation. Is the toast burning, or is the whole kitchen on fire? Do

you open a window, or do you run outside and call for help? When you stop letting conflict control you, you'll hear that alarm sooner, and you'll be prepared to respond appropriately.” John smiled at the visual Mac had so vividly painted. The truth was, he had often found himself sitting

in the smoke of his own “burnt toast,” while other people wondered if he was going to do something about it. He wondered why he was willing to put himself through something so unpleasant and unproductive. The waitress reappeared at their table. “Hi,” she said, cheerily. “All better?” “Much,” said John. After ordering breakfast and getting his coffee topped off, John received a text on his cell phone. He

shook his head as he read it. Deep breath, John, he said to himself. “What's going on?” asked Mac. “Oh, nothing. I have this one rep who feels he needs to run every little thing by me.” “Now, besides taking a deep breath, what else can you do to keep from letting that bother you about

him?” “Besides leaving my phone in the car?” said John grinning. “Yes, besides complete avoidance of the relationship.” “Well, like you suggested a few weeks ago about things I find annoying, look for the strength at play

behind the behavior.” “Great one. Managing yourself in conflict can be as easy as taking some time to see things differently.

When you do that, you can start to understand, and perhaps even appreciate, another person's motives. Why do you think your rep is contacting you so much?” “I don't think he likes the isolation of being out on the road. He's a pretty social guy—always coming up

with an endless list of options for his customers. If I had to guess, I'd say he's a Hub.” “So a Flexible-Cohering like me,” said Mac. “What's the strength he's overdoing?” “Indecisive? He wants to be so flexible and open to ideas that he seems to find it impossible to make a

decision.” “To him, being flexible and part of a cohesive, interactive group brings him self-worth.” “There are definitely worse things, I guess,” said John. “Certainly not worth getting into conflict over. When you take the time to get to know a person at a level

where you understand his motives, values, and sources of self-worth and esteem, you are less likely to find yourself in conflict. It's hard to dislike a person that you know.” “And by know, you mean know their motivational value system?” asked John. “Yes. Just understand them. Know where they're coming from.” The waitress returned with their orders. “Here we go, guys.”

“Thank you,” said Mac. John studied the waitress as she placed his eggs in front of him. “You seem to enjoy your work. What's

your favorite part?” “Of working here?” she asked. “Well I'm working my way through nursing school right now, but I

suppose I just like being around people. You meet so many different kinds of people in a place like this. It's fun, I guess.” “Cool,” said John. Mac snuck John a wink. “Enjoy!” she said. “Let me know if you need anything.” With that, she was gone. As John said, “Blue,” he heard Mac say, “Hub.” “Looks like we have a difference of opinion,” noted Mac. “What ‘reason’ did you hear?” “She likes people and wants to be a nurse. Made me think Blue. You?” “I could see that,” said Mac. “What I heard was that she gets to meet a lot of different kinds of people,

and that it's fun. As you can see, our filters influence what we see and hear. I might have heard the Hub reason. That sounded best to me.” “So who's right?” asked John. “It might be a little early in our relationship with Natasha to know for sure.” “Who's Natasha?” “The Hub waitress,” said Mac with a self-satisfied smile, “unless she's wearing someone else's name

tag.” “Ha! You think you're right!” John accused. “I'm kidding. But we could both be right.” “Well, that's no fun!” “It's something to keep in mind. Remember on the stage how the red, blue, and green spotlights blended

together? They showed white in the center. Motivational value systems have different shades with no strict borders. Somebody can be clearly in the Blue, or their Blue can be a little more flexible—closer to the Hub. Recognizing a person's motivational value system is a fine art. We can start by looking for one of the seven types, but as we learn more, we can fine-tune our understanding to notice when people are on the border between two types. We can tell if someone's Blue motivational values also have a bit of assertive Red, analytical Green, or flexible Hub mixed in.” “So the triangle is really just a New York loft apartment,” said John. Mac cocked his head and smiled, “How so?” “There're no walls. One corner is the bedroom area, and another is the family room area. You recognize

the differences between them, but the exact point where one room ends and the other one begins is kind of fuzzy.” “Okay, sure,” said Mac, laughing. “The triangle is a big loft apartment. Now where were we?” “The Blue waitress,” said John. “No, that was just one of my Hub tangents. We're here to talk about managing conflict.” “Oh, right. That.” John sighed, remembering the doom and gloom pervading his office right now. “Managing conflict has two components,” continued Mac. “Managing yourself and managing the

relationship. Managing yourself is about addressing your own feelings in the conflict, discovering what got you there, and finding a path back to your motivational value system. It's about keeping your energy

available for the other component: managing the relationship. Then you can create the conditions where the other person can manage themselves.” “What do you mean by, ‘create the conditions?’ ” asked John. “Knowing a person is in Red, Green, or Blue conflict and respecting that motivation. It means giving

them what they need in that moment.” “Like the different ways you handled Mabel and your guitar hero Kraig?” “Exactly. Even the way I handled you.” “Me?” “When you arrived on the pier the other day, you were still deep in your first-stage Green about the fight

you had with your wife. You may not have noticed it, but I didn't push my agenda for the day. I gave you some space to come around. I let you talk about what was bothering you when you were ready.” “Huh,” said John, impressed. “When people are in the cautious Green conflict state, give them some time or space if possible. If

something needs to be dealt with more urgently, try to set a time for a discussion—even if it's only five minutes away. Is that the way you'd like to be handled when you're in conflict?” “Absolutely. It's funny. After I know a big shipment has been sent to a customer and I see a call come in

from them, I always let it go to voice mail, just in case something is wrong with the order. I'm not avoiding them necessarily. I just want to hear their message first. I call right back, but even that extra minute helps me feel prepared for the call.” “Hey, whatever it takes to manage yourself,” said Mac. “When people are in the Blue accommodating-

conflict state, it's important to listen, check in with them, and give them several opportunities to express themselves. They really want to smooth it over, so they may say that everything is ‘fine.’ But asking a second time could help them feel more open to say what's really bothering them—and it shows them you really care. You want to help them avoid bottling it up, because there's only so much grinning and bearing it a person can take.” “When that bottle bursts, you better duck,” contributed John from personal experience with Nancy. Mac nodded. “People in the Red rise-to-the-challenge state want to be heard. You'll want to quickly

identify any points of agreement and ideally take action—or at least commit to taking action—if appropriate. And if you disagree on how, at least try to get on common ground about the desired outcome.” “It seems like doing all that would be pretty difficult if I'm in my first-stage Green. How can I quickly

talk things out with someone in Red conflict if I need a minute to regroup?” “Again, that's why it's important to get yourself under control and out of conflict so you can better

manage the relationship. Here's what's worked well for me. Take the time to fully listen to their concern— look at it as collecting information. Then ask when a decision needs to be made and agree to talk again at that time. That gives you the time you need to think and lets them know that you're serious about addressing the issue. With practice, it will come more naturally.” “So do your best to meet them where they're at,” said John. “Exactly,” confirmed Mac. “Conflict is an emotional state. It's very difficult to get resolution until

people's emotional needs are met. Show them you understand where they're at and approach them based on how they're feeling in the conflict. Find out what's important to them, respect that—and only then should you introduce what's important to you.” “It's like a good sales conversation,” said John. “Listen to the client's needs, and then talk about what

you have to offer that fits their needs.” “That's a good way to look at it. And if it's done well, both parties benefit from the relationship.” “Well that's a conversation I think I could pull off,” said John. “Of course you can,” said Mac. “But be careful not to confuse ‘ending the conversation’ with ‘ending

the conflict.’ If there's a break in the conversation, it might mean that people are still thinking about it, not that the conflict is over.” “When is the conflict over?” “Well, let's talk about that,” said Mac. “I used to say it was over when I won,” said John, grinning. “Is it safe to assume Dr. Mac Wilson

doesn't condone that viewpoint?” “That would be safe to assume, yes,” replied Mac. “As excruciating as it may be, we need to avoid the

temptation to want to win the fight or beat the other person. Creating winners and losers in conflict is rarely effective in the long run. In fact, it can lead to more conflict in the future.” “So what then? The old win-win solution?” “Not really. At least not yet. Win-win is a great goal for negotiation, problem solving, and other forms

of opposition. But because conflict, as we've defined it, is an emotional state between people, win-win conceptually falls flat. It doesn't take into account the very real presence of emotions like anger, fear, helplessness, uncertainty, frustration, isolation. Those emotions must be worked through before any objective win-win outcomes can be addressed.” “Is this where I have to become an armchair therapist?” “Working through people's emotions can sound daunting,” said Mac, “but if you approach it in the

context of everything we've been talking about, it becomes a little easier. Resolving conflict is the fifth and final key to having a nice conflict. It's the final step in the conflict journey.” “And where is that journey headed?” “Home,” said Mac. “Happy place?” asked John. Mac nodded. “It really boils down to this: to create movement toward resolution, we need to show the

other person the path back to self-worth.” “Where they feel good about themselves,” said John. “Exactly. Where they're not distracted by the emotions of conflict. That's why the manage key is so

important. It empowers you to understand the emotions you're seeing in others and approach them where they are at the moment; to connect. But to really get resolution, we need to help them back to self-worth. Two people could have the same emotional experience in conflict—like you and Gail both being first- stage Green—but you could have entirely different motivational value systems—different destinations on your return journey.” “In conflict,” said John, “Gail and I both need time to think and make sense of it all. But we're trying to

go back to different spots on the triangle.” “Right. You want back to Red, and she wants back to Green. Your path home is different from her path,”

said Mac. “What does that mean in terms of what I do in a conflict situation with her?” asked John “For you, getting conflict resolved means turning that Green thinking and logic into action, so you can

feel good about yourself. Your Green conflict needs to produce a Red results-oriented solution. For Gail, her Green conflict needs to produce a Green solution, methodical and reproducible. Even though you

often experience similar feelings at the beginning of conflict, the trips back to your respective motivational value systems go to very different destinations.” “So we won't be on the same flight,” said John with a smile. “Not unless you have a reason to be in Greenland.” John took a large bite of food—mostly so he could absorb what he had just heard. When he got into

conflict with Gail, he'd been trying to get her out of it by pushing her where he wanted to go instead of where she wanted to go. She wanted back to Green, but he was dragging her in his direction. As a result, their conflicts went on longer than they needed to. “This explains a lot,” said John. “When Gail and I are in conflict, I'm trying to make it better, but I'm

actually making it worse. What I need to do instead is come up with the action-oriented solution that I need but make sure that it's also organized and reproducible. When I come up with an idea to solve a problem for one customer, she always looks at what kind of precedent it sets for how we solve this with other customers.” “Very insightful, John,” said Mac. “Now what about other people?” John's thoughts first went to Nancy. He had always believed that conflict was resolved when she had

agreed on an action, a goal, or an outcome. But resolution to Nancy was different. For her, the goal didn't matter so much as the people. Sometimes he would be pushing for a result, and she would say things like, ‘You've got so many things to be thankful for already.’ When he dismissed that type of statement, she usually got mad at him—second-stage Red. He was trying to send Nancy down the wrong path and paid for it with escalating conflict. When his mind returned to work, he thought of Leslie; she didn't like the way he and Randy's

competition disrupted the team. She wanted everyone to get along, to collaborate. The path out of conflict for her was all about consensus and getting everyone on the same page. She wanted back to the Hub. Randy was another story entirely. John rarely had conflict with Randy (though he had learned that other

people, like Leslie, saw their treatment of each other during competition as conflict). On the rare occasions when there was conflict between them, it had been easy to resolve because their path out went to the same place. The journey back to Red meant simply showing the results and—boom—the conflict was over. Breakfast was soon over. John and Mac left the diner and wandered down the bustling city streets. “Keep in mind,” said Mac. “Resolution is not for one person at the expense of another; it's not ending

the conversation. True conflict resolution makes it easier for both people to feel good about themselves and the relationship. It's also important to know that not every conflict is going to get resolved. Part of managing conflict is recognizing when it's time to exit or perhaps even end a relationship.” The comment reminded John that this was their final meeting. Although he was excited to continue trying

out all of the tools that Mac had revealed to him, John began to wonder if he was as ready as Mac seemed to think he was. The unrest at work was weighing on him. And at home, although John and Nancy were seeing positive changes in their communication, it still wasn't as consistent as he would like. “Can I ask you a personal question?” asked John. “You can always ask. I'll reserve the right to not answer.” “Good enough. You seem to have it all figured out. I guess you and your wife never have conflict?

Picture-perfect marriage, right?” “Not true at all,” said Mac. “We still have conflict, but it's less than it used to be. We're able to prevent

the majority of it. Some people say that a relationship without conflict is probably a sign that you're not

talking about the things that really matter. And they're probably right.” “I'd agree with that,” said John. “Remember that conflict comes from a perceived threat to self-worth, and each person has a unique

sense of identity and a unique view of what self-worth looks like to him or her. No two people have exactly the same values. So it's almost automatic that an important relationship will have some conflict in it. And in that conflict, there is the opportunity to learn about what really matters to you and the other person. To keep a relationship going, you've got to manage the conflict so that the threats to self-worth are removed and resolve it so the results of the conflict confirm each person's self-worth. That's truly the bottom line of what it means to have a nice conflict.” “Simple as that, huh, Doc?” “It comes down to making good choices and using our skills to prevent it. And if you can't prevent the

conflict, then you have to manage it.” “Like the old saying: If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em,” said John. “I guess that's true,” said Mac. “If you can't prevent it, manage it.” In a small park across the street, several pairs of men played chess in the brisk morning sunshine. Mac

checked his watch and stopped. “Do you have a minute? There's someone I'd like you to talk to.” Before John could reply, Mac was dodging cars on his way over to the park. By the time John had made his way safely across the street, Mac was already seated at one of the

concrete tables. Mac waved him over. “Over here, John,” called Mac. The man sitting opposite Mac turned, and John instantly recognized the glowing, weathered face of

Walter Freeman. “Walter?” asked John in disbelief. Walter slowly stood and grasped John's outstretched hand. “Well, whaddya know?” said Walter. “What a wonderful surprise!” “For you and me both,” said John. “Our friend, John, here, has just graduated from our little conflict crash course,” said Mac. “And?” Walter asked John. “There was a lot of crashing,” admitted John. “But it's amazing. I can't begin to tell you what it's already

done for me.” “Try.” “Well, my boss and I are really starting to click. And things between Nancy and me have never been

better.” “Good. You screw things up with that pretty little lady, I'll smack you myself,” said Walter with a wink. “Don't worry,” assured John. He motioned to the chessboard between them. “You two do this often?” “Every Friday morning.” “He got tired of me kicking his butt on the golf course,” added Mac. Walter flashed Mac a dirty look and sat back down. “Enough out of you, Theodore.” “That IS your name,” exclaimed John, remembering Mabel calling him by the same name. “Legal name. It's a long story,” said Mac, without looking up from the chess pieces he meticulously

arranged in front of him.

“Your grandfather really did have a thing for Roosevelt,” said John. “That's true,” said Walter. “Should I tell him where the nickname Mac comes from?” “No,” said Mac, trying to hide a smile. “Walter is an old friend of my grandfather's. I've basically

known him my whole life.” “I taught him everything he knows,” said Walter, grinning. Then his face grew serious. “And he taught

me everything I know. The kid knows his stuff.” The two men exchanged a look. John felt a sort of father- son warmth between them. Walter smacked the seat beside him. “You gonna stand there all day? Sit down. Get ready for the master class in chess, the game of kings.” “I wanted to thank you again for doing this for me,” said John sincerely as he slid his legs under the

concrete picnic table. “Bah!” said Walter, swatting at John's words as they hung in the air. “I'd do it for everyone I know if this

joker wasn't so busy. I have an easier time getting a table at Le Bernardin.” “Well, it means a lot.” “I know, Johnny. The fact that you actually followed through and stayed with it is all the thanks you owe

me.” John smiled at how poorly Walter accepted compliments. “Now, when you're learning to play chess,” continued Walter, “the first thing you have to do is learn the

different pieces and how each one moves. The bishops move diagonally as far as they want, and the rooks move in straight lines as far as they want. The king and queen move in any direction, but the king can go only one space, while the queen—” “I actually know how to play chess, Walter,” interrupted John. “Hold your horses, sport. You'll never get the point if you don't spend a little time sharpening. May I go

on?” “Please,” said John, wondering if his own Red value system could be blamed for his patience

deficiency. “Once you learn the moves,” said Walter, “it's easy to play the game. But to master chess, now that's

another thing entirely. You could play this game your whole life and always find ways to improve. The game gets complicated because it's not really about moving the pieces around at all; it's about the relationships between the pieces and how they accomplish their objective.” Walter's point started to sink in for John. He and Mac shared a look as Walter continued. “You have to learn to think several steps ahead, to anticipate your opponent's moves and prevent him

from attacking your pieces. You have to be able to identify when you are getting into trouble and to manage yourself out of that trouble so you can bring the game to a satisfactory resolution—winning.” Mac was watching John, “Anything sound familiar?” “Suspiciously familiar,” said John, grinning. He opened his notebook and glanced at his notes.

“Anticipate, prevent, identify, manage, and resolve. But I thought conflict shouldn't be about winning.” “Conflict shouldn't, but life should,” said Walter. “Life is won when you achieve the kind of relationships and success you want for yourself,” Mac

stated. “I feel like I'm winning the game of life, because I'm living the life I want to live,” added Walter. “Did

you feel that you were winning when you were struggling at work or fighting with your wife?” “Quite the opposite,” admitted John. “This chessboard,” said Mac, “is sort of like our three-color triangle. And on it, Reds, Blues, Greens,

Hubs, and the blends are all moving in a predictable way, like the various chess pieces.” “When you understand people's motives,” said Walter, “you know what they're likely to do when things

are going well and when they're experiencing conflict.” Mac waved his hand over the black chess army in front of him, “And each piece is working together in

a unified effort. They're like a work team—a system of personalities working toward a common goal. I'm still fascinated by how people work together and how we can help people and teams become more productive.” “That's interesting,” said John staring at the chess pieces. “It made me realize something else. If one

person does something, it's going to affect the other people on the team. Right? Sometimes it's positive, but other times it's negative. So when one person moves into conflict, you can start to anticipate how that might affect the other people in the group—how the conflict could spread throughout the group as they join in the conflict.” “That's very true,” said Mac. “Even the way pieces move,” continued John. “Sometimes the movement of a chess piece is really

obvious, and other times, you have to ask the other player, ‘Did you move?’ That's really true for people too. Some moves to conflict are really easy to identify, and others are a little harder to notice. Does that make sense?” “He's already building on your concepts,” said Walter to Mac. “I told you I'd make him into a master,” said Mac. John wanted to make some self-effacing comment, but the fact was, he was really feeling confident in

the tools he had learned over the past few weeks. Perhaps master wasn't such an exaggeration after all.

Chapter Ten

Good morning, Gail,” said John in a singsong voice even he didn't recognize. “You're in a good mood this morning,” she answered as she rushed through the entrance door John was

holding open for her. “Yeah, well I almost had a fight with my wife last night.” Gail was perplexed. “That makes no sense whatsoever.” “Emphasis on the word almost,” said John proudly. “Does this have to do with the work you're doing around conflict?” “It's amazing!” said John. His exuberance was met with a hollow look of indifference. John smiled as he noticed the Green glow

around her face and chose his next words. “Real commonsense stuff, but well researched and tested. I'll get you some info on it.” “I'd be interested to see that.” John pushed the button to hail the elevator for them. “I'm assuming what you've learned helped you with your argument last night?” she asked. “Well, that's the great thing. There wasn't one. I was able to prevent the argument before it started.” The elevator doors opened, and they stepped inside joining a small group of other people already there. “Preventing conflict,” said John, “is about anticipating it, then actively averting it by either changing

your perception or changing your behavior.” John recognized the discomfort in Gail's eyes and smiled to himself. To Gail, the topic was clearly too

personal for a crowded elevator. He remembered Gail admonishing him in the past for continuing conversations during the long ride to their floor. She was an intensely private person, a trait John figured fit nicely with her autonomous Green motivational values. John stopped talking; if it made Gail uncomfortable, news of his victory on the home front could wait. “You're out of line!” boomed Randy's voice, as John and Gail approached the meeting room. Through the glass walls, John could see Randy towering over the large crowd of executives seated

around the conference table. Uh-oh, John thought. Here we go. John's good mood evaporated as he was reminded of the dark cloud that had been hanging over the staff for days. People were on edge. Tempers had been flaring—all because of a rumor that the mysterious, dreaded Philip Keyes was in town. As John entered the room, he could feel instantly that he was entering the epicenter of conflict at Starr

Industries. He fought off the urge to turn and walk out. This room was to be his prison for the next two days, as the annual show-and-tell with the vice president was about to kick off. It was the key sales meeting of the year, and all five regional sales directors and all forty sales managers were required to attend. It appeared that everyone was already here, so Randy had an ample audience for his outburst. “Just calm down,” said Leslie, crossing her arms and glaring. “Calm down? You're screwing with our livelihoods,” yelled Randy. “Did you know about this, John?”

he asked as he saw John enter the room. The last thing John needed was to be the center of attention during a Randy-sized flare-up. Not here. Not

today. The signs of conflict were everywhere. Blake leaned back in his chair as though he hoped he could

dissolve. Michelle Zapato, the VP of sales, had turned bright pink. One man John didn't recognize pulled his collar away from his neck with his left hand and fanned himself with his right. There were throats being cleared, breaths being swallowed. John thought of the chessboard. Randy had made a move, and it clearly affected the other players' next moves. “Well?” Randy was still waiting for a reply. “Can this wait for after—” John pleaded. “No, it can't wait,” interrupted Randy. “We're getting thrown under the bus!” “I don't even know what we're talking about,” returned John. “Let's table this for a more appropriate—” “Don't you bail out on me, man,” Randy shot back. “This is exactly the appropriate place. We're here to

talk about sales. And Leslie's doing her best to stomp on our numbers.” John was trapped in the middle of two firmly entrenched forces, and he had no idea what the battle was

even about—and didn't want to know. He took a few steps back. John knew he was withdrawing into Green conflict, and it was only serving to stoke the fire within Randy. John needed to throw himself a rope and pull out of it. “Okay, Randy. This is clearly important for you to discuss. But you gotta clue me in. I just walked in the

door.” Randy's shoulders settled slightly. “The Centauri launch. She's canning the campaign.” The news hit John in the gut. “What?” “I know, right?” said Randy. “There's absolutely no good reason to cancel that campaign. I've got

preorders on seven customers' desks just waiting for the official launch.” John himself had preorders from at least two customers, maybe three. He felt a flash of envy on hearing

of Randy's seven. Impressive. Cancellation of the campaign would mean a lot of creative and unpleasant storytelling—or worse, customer complaints about unfulfilled orders for a product they weren't even supposed to know about. John looked over at Leslie, who seemed to be waiting for John's reaction with bated breath. “That's not good,” said John, once again fighting the urge to disappear. “Great. So you're gonna jump on the bandwagon and blame me for blocking your pipeline too?” said

Leslie. “Why are you two even talking about Centauri with customers?” Not only was John deep into conflict, he was fast approaching his second-stage Red. “You knew damn well that Centauri was getting binned,” Leslie asserted. John's mind was racing. Could Leslie be right? Was this more than just a marketing delay? Was Centauri

being cancelled completely? He needed to call his customers. He needed to locate some kind of e-mail or memo that could be interpreted as permission to presell the product. “You two actually took orders for it?” asked Gail, joining the fray. John was suddenly very aware that he and Randy were the only ones standing in a room of fifty people.

Second-stage Red in this setting could wind up being corporate suicide. With a deep breath, John collected himself. While actual orders before the launch were clearly against the rule book, there was a longstanding and widespread practice of letting top clients “preorder.” He calmly looked over at Randy —his nose flaring, the imaginary Red glow beating with intensity. “Randy, I don't think you were the only one in here caught off-guard. We saw a great opportunity, and

we went after it. It's what makes you great at what you do.” John glanced at Michelle, the vice president, and continued, “Ultimately we need to do what's right for

the customer and deal with whatever the decision is regarding Centauri.”

“I want to know now,” Randy demanded. “It's not the time, Randy. I believe this meeting already has an agenda,” said John, “and we should

respect that. And respect the people in this room—many of whom traveled a good distance to be here.” He looked Randy in the eyes, “Can we address this after?” Randy was already sitting down. “Sure. As long as we do it soon.” John turned to Gail. “I think there may be a lack of clarity in our new-product procedures. Perhaps you

can be a part of that discussion, Gail?” “I would be glad to,” replied Gail, uncrossing her arms. John looked at Leslie. “You good with that? Group up after the meeting today?” “That works,” she said. John's eyes found Michelle again. Her face was returning to a normal color, and her fidgeting had

subsided. He guessed she had found herself in Blue conflict, though she hadn't said a word. John thought about how to create a comfortable hand-off as he found the last open chair and took a seat. “My apologies, Michelle. I know this probably wasn't the opener you had in mind. We sometimes like

to improv a little.” She and a few others in the room chuckled. It was more of a pressure release than a genuine laugh, but it

seemed to serve its purpose. “No problem,” said Michelle, now standing up. “Yeah, things have just been a little tense around here lately,” said Randy, with a glint of embarrassment

flashing in his eyes. John wondered if Randy meant that as an apology. “Well then,” said Michelle, “let's share a little good news, shall we?” Her voice was bright and cheery

as she attempted to sweep away the tension from the room. John smiled, awash with pride. It had been a brutal, public display of conflict, and he had somehow

managed to wrestle control of his own feelings. He had also been able to guide Randy and everyone else involved back to a more productive place. He glanced over at Gail, who offered an approving nod. It was an exciting win for him. His mind wandered as Michelle droned on about revenue and

projections. The graph on the slide clearly showed Starr's sales success—just slightly ahead of target. Out of the corner of his eye, John saw someone enter the room. But it was the pause in Michelle's

speech that most piqued his curiosity. John tried to make out the dark figure standing at the back of the room, but the light from the projector obscured his view. “Welcome,” said Michelle. “I'm glad you could join us, Mr. Keyes.” Everyone seemed to turn at once. There he was. The infamous Philip Keyes. John leaned over, trying to

actually see the man's face. “Proceed,” said Keyes. “I'm only here to observe.” John's mind raced again: Did the VP know that Keyes was coming? If Keyes was expected, why wasn't

it on the agenda? Was this an intentional ambush? What was going on? Michelle continued her uplifting presentation with a degree of awkwardness and formality that wasn't

there before. Even the VPs are scared of this guy, John thought to himself. She went on and on about exceeding sales targets and cited several examples of Starr's best clients. She was in the middle of a gushing review of Starr's performance in the Midwest when Keyes finally interrupted. “Okay, got it. But what problems are you experiencing?” The question was met with total silence. He stepped forward and repeated the question. “What

problems are you experiencing?” Michelle looked at the screen as if the answer might be hidden there. Keyes surveyed the room full of

executives. They avoided his eye like a group of unprepared students praying not to be called on. The only problem John was experiencing was how to turn invisible in this meeting. “Incredible,” said Keyes, sharply. He placed his fists knuckles down on the table and leaned in. “You

may be 5 percent above your top-line revenue goal—Bravo! But you people aren't even halfway to profit expectations. You know what that is? Unsustainable.” Keyes started pacing again. “What's going on in this department? Employee turnover is trending up.

We're losing good people around here almost every day. And nobody has any problems?” Silence. “Well, I have a problem!” continued Keyes. “I have a problem with contracts that lose money—adding

only to revenue targets that create income for salespeople but result in impossible demands for other support people at Starr.” He was pacing now. Keyes reminded John of a lawyer addressing a jury with a well-rehearsed closing argument. “I have a problem with contracts like this.” And he reached into the breast pocket of his tailored jacket and produced some folded papers. The crowd watched with fearful anticipation as Keyes slowly unfolded them. “I have a problem with people who sign contracts like this one with EagleMark Enterprises. It's

resource-wasting contracts like this that make me wonder what's really going on around here.” He turned to the last page of the contract and read the signature. “My problem is with Gail R.

Townsend.” The tension in the room was palpable. Keyes followed everyone's eyes to the target of his rage, and he

saw Gail's own eyes were wide open and full of fear. “And you must be her,” said Keyes, coldly. Gail remained quiet as Keyes proceeded to recite the flaws of the EagleMark deal. His voice echoed in

the background, as John felt himself plummet deeper into Green conflict. John knew he was the main reason for the EagleMark fiasco. He had started it and persuaded others that it was a good idea. It really did seem like a good idea at the time. John had recognized the potential right away, and it was still there, just waiting to pop. Gail had initially resisted the whole deal but finally signed it—succumbing to John's relentless badgering and overt confidence. Now she was being publicly berated for it. If there was going to be a fall guy, it should be John. He knew he needed to step up. His conflict smoke

alarm was screeching in his head, and stage 2 Red was not far behind. He wished an actual fire alarm would go off; he would give anything for just five minutes to think. It was time for action. But what action? Keyes was clearly showing signs of Red conflict. But where was his motivational value system? John yanked himself back to the situation and listened for Keyes's word choice—looking for clues to his location on the triangle. Keyes held an impressive command of the details surrounding the EagleMark situation: the support staff

being taken advantage of, the charges for customized packaging, the unforeseen waste, the administrative staff's resentment of the salespeople for getting paid on revenue targets—while they were left dealing with onerous compliance and unfamiliar government reporting requirements. John hurriedly began collecting in his head the reasons he was hearing. Unsustainable…employee

turnover…people being taken advantage of…waste and poor planning…burden on staff…resentment from staff. John sat up as it hit him. These were Blue and Green reasons—Cautious-Supporting reasons. Heads turned his way as John stood up from his chair. “Sir, I convinced Gail to sign that contract.”

Keyes slowly turned his attention on him, his eyes burning with disdain. “And you are…?” “John Doyle, sir.” John's heart pounded like a bass drum. Keyes's threatening stare melted John's confidence. He felt his

knees wobble and was about to return to his chair when he began to visualize the glow—bright Blue and Green lights emanating from behind Keyes's head like the spotlights on Mac's stage. The imagery strengthened John's resolve. “You're correct about that contract in every way,” said John. “I'm not proud of it.” “Nor should you be,” said Keyes as he tossed the contract onto the table and walked away. John began

to panic. “I'm still confident that I can make that account profitable, Mr. Keyes,” said John with manufactured

certainty. Keyes scoffed at the comment but didn't turn back. Too Red, Doyle! John scolded himself. Blue-Green,

Blue-Green, Blue-Green. “And frankly, sir,” continued John, “it was an important learning experience for us—for me. I've been

taking steps…going through a process to improve the way Gail and I communicate and make decisions.” Keyes stopped and turned. John plowed ahead. “It's helping us to more fully consider each opportunity and any related risks, so we don't make

promises to customers that we can't keep—or that would be cost prohibitive to keep.” John motioned to Gail, “It's also helping the relationship between us.” Keyes let the silence simmer as he considered what he was hearing. John felt compelled to fill the void. “I'm not proud of what happened on the EagleMark deal so far, but

I'm proud of the work we've done together to make sure we don't repeat it.” Keyes looked at Gail. She offered a confirming nod. “Doyle, Townsend, walk with me,” commanded Keyes, as he pushed through the door into the hall. Gail

and John shared a terrified look as the meeting room door closed behind him with a sharp clank. They found Keyes waiting for an elevator in the lobby. John didn't know what to expect. His limbs felt

numb, and his head was swimming. Was he about to lose his job? As he often did, John felt compelled to fill the silence—this time with a Blue-Green translation of his earlier Red outburst. “Mr. Keyes, it's my personal mission to salvage that contract and bring in the revenue to justify the

sacrifices that the people in this company have made to—” “Okay, Doyle,” said Keyes with the hint of a smile. “Stand down.” The intensity was gone from his

voice. “Sorry,” said John, a little embarrassed. “You took a stand in there, Doyle. I can respect that.” “Thank you, sir.” “Are you really committed to honoring the sacrifices that the good people at this company are making?” “Absolutely.” “And I assume you have a plan for this?” “We do, yes,” said John. Keyes studied him closely. “I hope so. I'll be watching this account—and you—with interest. Mistakes are going to happen, John.

Believe me. I've made some eight-figure mistakes myself. The key is always to grow from it—learn from it.” “Absolutely, sir,” said Gail. They were both surprised to hear Gail's voice. Welcome back, thought John to himself. Keyes shook John's hand and looked him squarely in the eye. “A hero of mine once said, ‘The ultimate

measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ ” “Who said that, sir?” asked John. The elevator chimed, and Keyes stepped inside. “Martin Luther King Jr.” Gail closed the door to John's office as John put his phone on “do not disturb” mode. He started to pace;

sitting didn't feel like an option. He was still feeling numb—and maybe a little too excited to sit just yet. “Should we get back to the meeting?” asked Gail. “Let ‘em wonder a little longer,” said John with a big smile. “John, I'm really impressed,” said Gail, sincerely, “and grateful. I'm not sure what I just witnessed there

—hypnosis or mind reading.” “Listening, mostly,” said John. “No, that was me. I just sat and stared like a fool.” “You fell into conflict is all. I did too, but I yanked myself back out. He's a pretty intimidating guy.” Gail settled into one of John's guest chairs. “You can say that again.” “All I did was appeal to what seemed to be important to him.” “How?” “What I heard—beneath all that anger—was a man who was all about fairness and people.” “I could see that, I guess. Toward the end,” said Gail. “But when did you figure it out?” “Well, it helps to know what to listen for,” said John. “When he was talking about those problems in the

meeting, he was in conflict—aggressive and challenging. But the reasons he was in conflict had to do with people being taken advantage of or wastefulness and poor planning. So I guessed that his assertive conflict response had been triggered by violations of cautious and supporting values.” “Hmm. But how did you know what to say?” “Once I figured out what mattered to him, I just found a way of telling the truth in a way that was

respectful of his values.” Gail nodded slowly, absorbing every word carefully. “It's about finding out what's important to people, respecting it, and then using the right skills to address

the person's needs—even before you present what's important to you. If you can do that, you're better positioned to find good solutions that resolve the conflict and help both parties to feel good about themselves.” “All I can say is,” said Gail, “if you can master the approach you've just described, I think you'll have

no problem going places in this company. And if EagleMark actually comes through for us, even better.” “I think a lot of things are going to be better.” John smiled. He had finally calmed down enough to sit. It was hard to believe it had only been a few weeks since he

had sat in this same chair feeling the walls crashing down around him. The events of the day when he was denied promotion had shaken him to the core. The confidence that was so important to his self-worth had

been stripped bare, and he found himself questioning his very identity. As John sat, sharing a friendly, victorious moment with his one-time foe, Gail, he recognized that the

worst day of his career had really been the best. It had been the punch he needed to knock him out of his unproductive ways and into action that was sure to take him to a much better place. His goals suddenly seemed attainable again. In fact, maybe those outdated goals were too attainable. But even more fulfilling, John found an unexpected strength and excitement in his new attitude toward his relationships. People were no longer obstacles in the way of his goals; they were partners that made the journey more rewarding.

Letter from John

Starr: Industries

Hi, Theodore ;-) It may sound odd, but I was thinking about you last week, as Nancy and I celebrated our 15th wedding

anniversary in Italy. It was an amazing trip, and our relationship feels stronger than ever. We truly feel we have you to thank for that. My greater sense of awareness has helped me to recognize when I'm moving into conflict, and I'm able to articulate my feelings to Nancy without pulling away. She appreciates my willingness to let her into my world and help me sort through it all. Thanks again for setting Nancy up with her own assessments. The information has been invaluable to

our relationship. We're having some great conversations again—much like when we were dating. Not to say there isn't still conflict in our marriage. Nancy's consulting work has really taken off, and our lives are as busy as ever. Those Red and Blue filters definitely get in the way from time-to-time. But I'm getting much better at not accepting every invitation to conflict, and I'm finally recognizing Nancy's more subtle conflict triggers. When things do get heated between us, I've started asking her why the issue is so important to her. Just hearing her answer allows me to borrow an effective behavior more quickly. You'll be glad to know I'm reaching down into those middle and lower drawers of my toolbox much more frequently, and it's amazing how much more civil and productive our conversations are now. Nancy's using this approach as well. It's like we've learned a new language. Hard to believe it's almost been a year since our last appointment. So much has happened in my life…

The big one you might be curious about is that elusive promotion at Starr Industries. Well, I guess third time's a charm. I'm a regional director! …which basically means I super-sized my team and my area of responsibility. I'm really enjoying the new role and the people I'm working with. I love the challenges and have developed some solid relationships right away. My rise to regional director also makes Gail and me peers. I've truly come to appreciate her thoughtful

approach and often use her as a sounding board for new ideas. Believe it or not, she even asked me recently to turn one of her notoriously verbose presentations into ten bullet points for her. I'm also Randy's boss now. It was pretty awkward at first, and some of our jokes got a little too

personal. We had one ugly blowout, which really revealed how a conflict between two people can bring down a whole team. But I was able to resolve it with an apology to the team and a heart-to-heart with Randy. We're on excellent terms again and only trade insults after hours. And as far as the team as a whole, we might actually be stronger, now that we've been in the foxhole together and survived. I hope you're doing well, and for the sake of the world, I hope you're still busy as ever. Sincerely,

John Doyle Regional Director of Sales

John's Notebook

A Summary of Learning

Dr. Mac's Statement of Philosophy

A Philosophical Approach to Learning as Written from the Perspective of Dr. Mac Wilson

Character Assessment Results

SDI Assessment Results for the Characters Featuredin John's Story

The personalities of the fictional characters presented in this book are consistent with the personality descriptions presented in the SDI® (Strength Deployment Inventory®). There are seven Motivational Value Systems, derived from various combinations of three primary drives in relationships. Your Motivational Value System acts as an internal filter through which you interpret and understand life. It is a unifying set of values for choosing behavior that enhances your sense of self-worth. What follows are more detailed descriptions of each Motivational Value System as described in Dr. Elias H. Porter's theory of Relationship Awareness.® [Porter, E. H. (1976). On the Development of Relationship Awareness Theory: a Personal Note. Group Organization Management, 1(3), 302–309.]

The 7 Motivational Value Systems

Main Characters The fictional SDI results of our four main characters (John, Mac, Gail, and Nancy) served as a guide for describing their motives, behaviors and perceptions when things were going well, and during conflict.

Individuals who complete an SDI receive their results in the form of arrows on the interaction triangle. The dots represent the Motivational Value Systems, while the arrowheads represent the Conflict Sequences.

Conflict Sequence The Conflict Sequence describes internal changes in feelings and motives in response to perceived threats. While people most frequently use behavior that looks very similar to the way they are feeling, other behavior choices are always available.

Internal Experience in Conflict

Observable Behavior in Conflict

Summary of Character SDI Results

Supporting Characters Below are the fictional SDI results for some of our supporting characters. The triangle is a useful tool for quickly identifying where people are coming from and anticipating what might trigger conflict between people.

The Strength Deployment Inventory was developed to help people access, understand, and make practical use of Relationship Awareness Theory. When you complete the SDI, you learn about the values that underlie your behaviors in two types of conditions: when all is going well, and when things are in conflict. With this knowledge, you will better understand yourself and the people in your life. For more information on the SDI and other Relationship Awareness assessments or to find your regional

distributor, please visit www.PersonalStrengths.com. For more information on the Have a Nice Conflict learning experience, please visit: www.HaveaNiceConflict.com.

  • Praise for Have a Nice Conflict
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the Authors
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One
  • Chapter Two
  • Chapter Three
  • Chapter Four
  • Chapter Five
  • Chapter Six
  • Chapter Seven
  • Chapter Eight
  • Chapter Nine
  • Chapter Ten
  • Letter from John
    • Starr: Industries
  • John's Notebook
  • Dr. Mac's Statement of Philosophy: A Philosophical Approach to Learning as Written from the Perspective of Dr. Mac Wilson
  • Character Assessment Results
    • The 7 Motivational Value Systems
    • Main Characters
    • Conflict Sequence
    • Summary of Character SDI Results
    • Supporting Characters