May 17, 2012

SXSW Recap (Part 3): Do not Negotiate with Terrorists

Maria Giudice's picture
Maria Giudice
CEO & Founder

Note: This is the third of four posts recapping “Moms (plus one Dad) vs. Management,” a talk on the parallels between parenting and management given by Hot CEO Maria Giudice and an all-star group of panelists. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2, as well.

It was a lot of fun to have my friend Margaret Stewart join the panel at SXSW.

As the Director of Product Design at Facebook, and former Director of UX for YouTube, Margaret has led teams that’ve built products used by millions, maybe even billions, of people. Along the way, she’s mastered a brand of tough-but-fair management that made her the perfect presenter for the panel’s section on conflict resolution, or, as Margaret called it: Do not Negotiate with Terrorists.

Conflict is bound to arise in any work environment, especially when you’re working with bright, talented, opinionated people. But just because conflict is natural doesn’t mean it’s entirely healthy. Too much conflict can make working situations unbearable.

So how can managers resolve conflicts more effectively? Here are some of the tips Margaret offered, with great humor and insight.

Margaret, the Mom: Set and explain expectations.
Margaret, the Manager: Establishing clear expectations with employees helps them know how to behave and perform.

Margaret, the Mom: Show that actions have consequences.
Margaret, the Manager: A failure to meet expectations must be dealt with. This can be hard, but it’s also vital for the long-term success of a group.

Margaret, the Mom: Sometimes a kid needs a timeout.
Margaret, the Manager: Getting employees out of their environment—maybe by taking a walk or having a beer—often gets people to the point where they can have an intelligent conversation and begin the work of resolving the conflict.

Margaret, the Mom: Honesty defuses situations.
Margaret, the Manager: If you’re wrong, admit it. Honesty can be disarming, and can totally change the tone of a conversation.

Margaret, the Mom: You can’t fire your kids.
Margaret, the Manager: You can fire your employees. Sometimes it’s good to admit when things aren’t working out. At the end of the day, there needs to be alignment between the company’s goals and the employee’s goals.

Hear more from Margaret in her video interview on genConnect.