Episode 73

Conflict, Courage, Regret

with Amy Gallo, Jim Detert, Ph.D., Daniel Pink

July 21, 2022

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Amy Gallo, Jim Detert, Ph.D., Daniel Pink

This episode features three leaders previously interviewed on The Gary Bisbee Show. Amy Gallo is a Contributing Editor for the Harvard Business Review and co-host of the “Women at Work” podcast. She is also the author of forthcoming book “Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People).” Jim Detert, Ph.D. is a professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the University of Virginia and author of “Choosing Courage: The Everyday Guide to Being Brave at Work.” Daniel Pink is a five-time New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.”

“The single biggest thing a leader can do: talk about one of our regrets. Don't just leave it there though, explain what you learned from it and what you're going to do about it.” – Daniel Pink

Amy Gallo, Jim Detert, Ph.D., Daniel Pink Tweet



[00:00:55] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: We interview authors on The Gary Bisbee Show because they can provide new perspective and framing on traditional leadership ideas. The process of writing a book by nature is introspective and thoughtful. Authors have researched, reflected, written and rewritten each idea that their book explores. So today, we are turning to authors, to hear their thoughts on conflict, courage, and regret in leadership. We will hear from Amy Gallo, a Contributing Editor for the Harvard Business Review and co-host of the “Women at Work” podcast. She is also the author of forthcoming book “Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People).” Next, we will listen to Professor Jim Detert, Ph.D. He is a professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the University of Virginia and author of “Choosing Courage: The Everyday Guide to Being Brave at Work.” To wrap up, we will turn to Daniel Pink, five-time New York Times bestselling author. His latest is “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.” To begin, let’s hear from Amy Gallo on how we can be better at conflict.

[00:02:05] Amy E. Gallo: A lot of times, which is understandable when we’re under stress. And conflict often feels stressful. It feels like a threat which signals this stress response where cortisol, the hormone cortisol runs through our system. We lose access to our prefrontal cortex. We go into that fight or flight mode, and we become naturally narcissistic. So we lose sight of the other person, or we tell ourselves a story about the other person, right? Like, Gary is a passive aggressive jerk, and always has been, he’s doing it again. And you feel that story is so true. So I think one of the most important things you can do is try to think about the other person in an empathetic way. And I don’t mean that you have to be kind and generous to someone who’s being rude to you. It’s really a strategic move for you to get out of that rumination, get out of that self-focus so that you can be in a more collaborative stance when you have the art, the discussion that you need to have. So that’s one point I would say. The second is that, oftentimes we just dive right into the conversation without doing a lot of prep. I was never sat down in a classroom, or in my family, or in college, or even in a job and been told here’s how you have a disagreement. And most of us think we should be instinctively good at it. So we just treat it as a normal interaction, but it does require some care and thought to do it well. And so the second thing I’d say to people is spend some time ahead of time, really laying out. What do you know about the situation? What facts are true? What questions do you have? What might be an assumption on your part? And the question I like to ask myself as often as possible, which really requires putting your ego down is what if I’m wrong? What, what would the scenario be like if I am incorrect about this and what would I do differently? Cause I think that really opens you up to having a productive conversation with the other person.

[00:04:03] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Conflict management is still like any other. It requires preparation and practice and is fundamental to effective management. Conflict also requires courage, so next we turn to Professor Deter to describe how leaders can promote courage.

[00:04:20] Jim Detert, Ph.D.: There’s a difference between acknowledging that people are afraid and telling them to just buck up and be courageous anyway. Versus acknowledging that people are afraid and therefore doing things that would help change that for them. And so I don’t see the role of very senior leaders as being to encourage courage, Because what I really think is that if you’re a CEO and you stand up there. You’re a hospital head and you stand up there and say, “Hey folks, I’m here to encourage courage. We need to see more courage.” What you’re essentially saying is, “Hey, I realize that there’s a lot of fear in this system. I don’t intend to do anything about that. So get it together and be courageous anyway.” Well, that’s kind of a terrible way to lead in my opinion. So I think what great leaders, especially as they become more senior, would do is they’d say, “I need to acknowledge fear exists, and I need to start doing things to change that.” Some of that, frankly, would be quite courageous on your own part as a leader. It would mean that when your people see you around your own bosses, they see you be willing to challenge in respectful ways. They see you going to bat for them. They see you being innovative rather than a yes man or woman. So one thing you do is you just model the same behaviors you would hope your people would take, and you stop fooling yourself and thinking that if everybody behind your back saying you’re the weakest softest leader they have ever been around, then you are not modeling what you’re hoping for. Two, I think this is where, some of this language around vulnerability comes in. If you don’t ever, as people’s leaders say, “I don’t know. Help me. I made a mistake. I’m sorry. Let’s fix it.” If you won’t do those things, then you are not creating the conditions for people to think you actually want to be told the truth. So you have to do that kind of modeling. And then I think the third sort of set of courageous actions that leaders could do to address people’s fear is be willing to change some of the systems that frankly are inconsistent with what you’re espousing. So you can tell people all day long. We wanna be innovative. We value agility and creative thinking and innovative behavior. But if everything in your pay scheme pays for accomplishment of established metrics, then you don’t really want innovation. If people can look around and say, “Hey, who got promoted?” And everybody that got promoted were the yes men and women, and nobody that’s an innovative, out of the box, thinker got promoted, then your system’s not aligned

[00:06:51] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Leaders play an active role in creating a culture of courage. However, sometimes courageous acts go wrong. To wrap up, Daniel Pink will discuss the power of regret.

[00:07:03] Daniel Pink: If you look at some of the benefits of regret in dealing with improperly, we’re talking about decision-making, negotiation, strategy, like those are things obviously that leaders do. I think there’s something to be said as a very small starting practice that what leaders should do, and one of the things that I’m trying to do in this book in this basket of ideas, is normalize regret, and I wanna normalize regret cause it’s normal. Alright. Leaders can help in that process by doing something very simple. You go to a meeting or something like that. And at the meeting you say, “Let me tell you about one regret that I have.” “Let me tell you what I learned from it.” And, “Let me tell you what I’m gonna do about it.” I think that is powerful and catalytic on a couple of dimensions. The first is that, we sometimes fear that when we disclose our mistakes and our vulnerabilities people will think less of us. And there’s a lot of evidence showing that’s wrong. That they actually think more of us. They admire our courage. It builds affinity. So it’s a way for a leader for her to build affinity. The second thing is that it normalizes regret and allows people to actually talk about and surface their regrets and try to make sense of them and draw lessons from them. The more that we are able to, individually and collectively look at our mistakes and not terrorize ourself for them, but examine them almost scientifically. “Ooh, look at this mistake. Let me hold it up to the light.” You know, examine it and draw lessons from it, we’re gonna improve in the future. So to me, that’s the single biggest thing a leader can do. Talk about one of our regrets. Don’t. Just leave it there, though. Explain what you learned from it. And then tell, explain what you’re gonna do about it.

[00:08:39] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Regret is uncomfortable, but when channeled it can be transformative. When leaders share their regrets, they can create an opportunity for powerful conversation and work toward preventing future regrets. At its core, leaders are leading the whole people, not just roles like nurses and engineers. This means grasping human psychology, redirecting emotions and finding compromise in less than ideal circumstances. This is a process requiring practice, introspection, and then more practice.

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