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Flexible Conflict Resolution

By: Clifton Printy, Assistant Superintendent with Nexus 5 Group

Clifton Printy

Are you flexible? Modern business models need to let go of top down management styles and create a system that allows people to assist themselves. It requires vulnerability and a broad viewpoint. We need to build into our peers the ability to assist themselves. I was recently reminded of this on an airplane hanger project Nexus 5 Group was building from the ground up. Months of windy days had slowed us down, and we all wanted to get it done.

Then the plan changed.

The project scheduling had caused one team of subcontractors to finish before another. Unfortunately, it meant removing some of our work to allow for the proper completion of the job. (We were not the only sub in this position. It happens.) We live in a fluid environment where things are subject to change. It hurts when you do a great job and someone asks you to disassemble it, especially if you will have to put it back together again.

In my role as an assistant superintendent, it was necessary to make a bureaucratic statement. I ended up somewhere between a Mountain Dew ad and a Nike commercial. “Just Do it,” I start to say. But I don't want to be a top-down manager. I’ve been fascinated with Nexus 5 Group’s team mentality since I was hired.

In my previous employment, I saw only subjectivity.

It’s an unsustainable business model. In our modern environment people know they can leave and go somewhere else (and they do). The ordering and pushing without defining a clear understanding of the goal we’re working towards can be polarizing. By not being objective and encouraging at the same, we fall into chaos, and create a lack of collaboration between departments.

All managers need to remember that people follow leaders.

A good leader understands that we must tell the truth the right way. Integrity matters as well as understanding the beliefs and feelings of others. It’s usually not a black and white situation. Sometimes, it's as simple as putting a positive spin on something, other times just opening the window and letting subordinates know what is going on. Hard pills to swallow are motivation for personal growth.

Many people left me during my first year as a manager.

I told myself it was my fault. I owned it. I’ve worked hard to make my guys feel that they’re part of a team. It’s what I love about Nexus 5 Group and I truly want other people to feel the same way. I made the shift to allow everyone to see the end game, how it will affect our growth and where we plan to go. To “flatten the world” and eliminate the booming voice of authority yelling down commands from Olympus.

I adopted transparency and frailty.

I asked for suggestions and led by working. I gave them autonomy and suggested instead of ordering. Straight bureaucratic management alienates people. It polarizes departments and causes derision. One person with low morale can infect a great company with the virus of doubt.

If I allowed a situation to create conflict between departments, it would also allow dissent between my subs. Learning from this mistake taught me how to achieve my goals.

Today, I let my guys network with each other. This results in them teaching and supporting each other. Our success depends on our clients viewing us as their best choice for a partner. A view that could never be realized if we didn’t genuinely care about each other. In hindsight, I understand the structure. I have the latitude, the imagination, the patience, and the support to make this a trainable moment for myself as well as my team.

Back to the airplane hanger project…

Due to environmental variables, a sub couldn’t meet the schedule. We started having conversations that allowed for input from their team members. And these guys know how to do their jobs. Collaboration allowed us to find a path forward so that we could all meet our goals. The team isn’t just Nexus 5 Group, but everyone involved in the project.

The right answer? I will continue to leave the bureaucracy at the office and bring the coach to the field.

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