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The speaker’s message was clearly meant for me. “Don’t bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out.” I was convinced that I had buried the hatchet in a very painful disagreement with a family member, but this advice made me realize that I still knew where the handle was. I hadn’t completely forgiven this person and it would be much too easy to grab that handle and resurrect all those negative emotions.

Ending Conflict

This concept originated with two Native American chiefs who buried their hatchets when they agreed to end a conflict. Think of all the energy required to constantly butt heads or avoid someone. Better to spend your energy burying the hatchet and the handle.

How to Start

  •  Forgiving – acknowledge both parts in the conflict and commit to forgiving the other person unconditionally.
  •  Identifying what you have in common – a shared goal or a common adversary, perhaps a competitor.
  •  Taking responsibility – “I would really like for us to find a way to work together more effectively. What can I do to make that easier?”
  •  Accepting neutral – turning an enemy into a friend doesn’t happen overnight, but getting them from negative to neutral is a good first step. Just don’t stop there.

I invite you to ask yourself whether you might be holding onto something – would it be better off buried?

My client was frustrated because her direct reports didn’t have their business plans ready. She extended the deadline and sent them reminders, but they still didn’t get them done. My client extended the deadline several more times and sent additional reminders. She couldn’t understand why this was such a problem.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When I asked, “What are the consequences of not getting the business plan done on time?” my client realized that she had not established or implemented any consequences. Her message to her subordinates was that the deadline was flexible. My client’s actions also communicated that she would be responsible for helping them remember their commitments. Neither of those were messages she intended to convey.

As we focused on creating a different outcome, my client committed to explaining her new approach to each member of the leadership team. She would expect them to keep their commitments and she would not be sending reminders. If her subordinates met or exceeded my client’s expectations, they would be recognized and compensated accordingly. If they did not meet her expectations, they should expect corrective action.

How are you holding your team accountable? Consider the following accountability suggestions:

  • Communicate expectations clearly – have each person confirm their understanding.
  • Be specific about positive and negative consequences – be aware of what motivates your subordinates and use that to create incentives, but know what you can and will enforce if they don’t perform.
  • Follow through – unless you do what you say you will do, you aren’t holding people accountable.

I invite you to evaluate your approach to holding people accountable. If you feel that you could improve in this area, contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com