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  • Writer's pictureDrDavanaPilczuk

Unclear Goals Push Us to Conflict

When I was 8, I received the complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica for Christmas. I had been quite explicit that I wanted the Barbie Dream House, but instead received 32 brown, hardback books filled with information I would only use when my parents refused to help me with my homework.

I sat there wondering where I had gone wrong on my list (Barbie Dream House, Easy Bake Oven, Barbie and The Rockers doll). I felt let down, like my wishes had been overruled for something more practical and intellectual. I remember my parents’ faces beaming with joy as I smiled and hugged them, but I felt disappointed. Coincidentally, that was the same year I stopped believing in Santa.

My parents clearly had good intentions, but those intentions didn’t align with mine.

It’s not uncommon for us to want the people in our lives to be like us, to think like us and to get onboard with our ideas. We get a rush, a sense of purpose and happiness when we have a great idea and obviously, we want others to fall in line with those ideas. How could they not, right? Problem is, we don’t all think alike, nor do we value the same things or approach situations in the same way. And when our vision is out of alignment with those we work with or partner with, conflict will inevitably ensue.

Turns out, the greatest source of team conflict comes from unclear or un-agreed upon goals. A whopping 80 percent of team conflict simply comes from team members not agreeing on the vision or goal, or they aren’t clear on what the goal is altogether!

At 8 years old, the goal of Christmas, to me, was to get a killer toy and to have time off from school, where I didn’t have to think. I could just imagine and escape into the land of Barbie for hours and feel happy. For my parents, it was a day to give a gift that had meaning and purpose; a gift that would help me with school for the next 10 years. Our vision of Christmas was out of alignment.

Considering the level of stress most of us experience, determining your team’s vision and goals will greatly reduce conflict and re-ignite your team’s purpose and drive. When I say team, I mean any group of people who have come together to achieve a common goal. Your team can be your co-workers, golf buddies, or the in-laws coming to stay for the holidays. Get very clear about each person’s vision for this team and then decide if everyone is in alignment. If you aren’t, then prepare for a bumpy ride.

People’s personalities come out when they feel frustrated, unheard or when their values are violated. We get annoying, difficult or shut down when we realize that what we had wanted and hoped for isn’t the reality we are living in. However, when we are clear on the team’s vision and we agree with it (that’s key), people tend to keep their annoying traits more in check and are willing to do more to help the team succeed. Fall back out of alignment, and we will nitpick each other’s flaws to death.

This month, make it a point to get your team aligned. If your worry is about the holidays, then ask everyone involved what their vision for a perfect holiday looks like. Then determine what’s a go and what’s a no-go (example: no talking politics). Finally, share the common vision you all have so everyone knows what’s expected.

You would be surprised to realize that so much of the personal conflict and relationship stress in your life is there because of unclear goals. Think about it. You want a relaxing staycation this holiday. Your partner wants excitement and a big family road trip. Result: conflict. Get your teammates aligned and your holidays and life will be much less stressful and much more successful.

As for my Barbie Dream House, well, Santa never did bring me that one. But a few years ago, on Christmas morning, I found a box under the tree. It was an original Easy Bake Oven complete with cookie and cake mix, given to me by someone better than Santa: my husband. - Dec 3, 2017

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