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Book Review: How and what you can learn from friction

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  • Written by  Michelle Rogan
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
Have A Nice Conflict: A Fable: How to Find Success and Satisfaction In The Most Unlikely Places. By Tim Scudder, Michael Patterson, Kent Mitchell. Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 234 pp. Have A Nice Conflict: A Fable: How to Find Success and Satisfaction In The Most Unlikely Places. By Tim Scudder, Michael Patterson, Kent Mitchell. Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 234 pp.
Have A Nice Conflict: A Fable is a must read, not only for new managers but also for those who have not reached their own full promotional potential. The authors cleverly, yet practically, force the reader to analyze their behavior in order to understand who they are and why they act and react to others the way they do in conflict situations.

Conflict, contrary to what we frequently think, can be a good thing, in the authors’ view. It can serve as a tool to teach us to be better listeners or managers, and, in general, to be better people.
The fable behind the book

Have A Nice Conflict is built around a story, one that may strike a chord with many in American business.

John Doyle, a sales manager mentioned in the book, is frustrated by his inability to get promoted despite his stellar sales performance. Gail, John’s boss, recognizes that it is not John’s sales performance, but his lack of people skills that holds him back. He has recently lost two of the stars from his sales team, and this does nothing to improve his reputation within the company as someone who is hard to get along with.

The company has an informal “three strikes and you’re out” rule for executives passed over for promotion and John now has one strike left. He’s desperate.

A sympathetic and wise long-time customer, Walter, arranges for John to meet with Doctor Mac, a corporate coach and counselor with very unorthodox methods. Mac sets out to help teach John the importance of understanding conflict and, to a larger degree, help John understand himself.
The relationship between Mac and John is intriguing and full of meaningful lessons that are presented in a practical and entertaining manner.

Therapy is presented in a unique way, because there is no set meeting place for John and Mac, no patient’s couch. The location varies depending on the point Mac is trying to make with John. In fact, the place and the people surrounding the session changes weekly.
John and Mac go fishing

In one weekly session Mac requests that John meet him at the area’s fishing pier, a local attraction for many. However, John is in his business suit, so he doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the men fishing there.

Mac points to two of  the fishermen and explains to John that they are the subject of this week’s lesson. John is asked by Mac to introduce himself to the two men and get to know them in 20 seconds. John accepts the challenge and approaches them eagerly. During the initial conversation, John asks the two men how the fishing is going. The conversation then turns to the type of bait each is using. The men offer John a suggestion to use mackerel instead of squid.

John continues to investigate by asking each of the men why they enjoy fishing so much. The younger angler states he likes the whole process of finding the right bait, the right lures, and location. He also adds, “My five kids hate it and it’s my only vacation from home.”

John laughs, and moves on to ask the second man, the older fellow with a brace on his leg, what brings him to the pier. The old man responds, “I’m here for the fish.”  He explains that since he was injured he has been out of work on disability and has had to fish to feed his family.

John, at this point is realizing that Mac’s little lessons are really helping him with his discovery skills of getting to the heart of why people do what they do and how to ask the right questions. The meeting of the men ends well, with John getting an open invitation to join the two men for fishing on the pier. This is just one example of how John is becoming more aware of his purpose in being a manager, understanding and caring about what others think and feel about any issue, even something as fun as fishing.

This allows Mac to teach John his message of understanding the personality of the person facing conflict first before beginning to identify how to resolve the conflict.
Resolving conflict between others

In another weekly conflict therapy session Mac allows John to witness him resolving a conflict with tenants that reside in an old apartment complex once owned by his grandfather.

Mac speaks to the tenants separately and listens to both sides of the story. Then he proceeds to the younger tenant, a culprit responsible for making too much noise with his electric guitar. Mac approaches the young man and shares his concerns about the elderly tenant who would appreciate some peace and quiet, at least any time after dusk.

Mac shows John that it is imperative to understand the situation of both parties involved, identify their respective personalities and points of view. Only then can one attempt to resolve the situation.

Of course, Mac resolves the conflict effortlessly and John learns why Mac is so equipped to handle conflict. He has had lots of experience.

Such stories keep the reader engaged and wondering what will happen next. The lessons are summarized at the end of the book, which makes it easy to put this valuable information to use.
The payoff of the methodology

In the end, John sees conflict for what it really is, an opportunity to help others learn and grow. He, too, learns to compromise, listen, and lead by example, while successfully resolving conflict.

The result is a win-win situation. John feels better about himself professionally and personally and his employees feel good about themselves for being allowed to achieve their full potential.

The realization by John that he must adapt to others to achieve his success and goal of being promoted to regional sales manager is a breakthrough that proves to be fruitful. He does get the promotion and as an added benefit John improves his relationship with his wife, which was not expected.
The color pyramid: The 7 step motivational value system

The premise of Have A Nice Conflict is that all of us exhibit specific personality and behavioral characteristics which cause us to act a certain way when faced with a conflict. The authors are all with Personal Strengths USA, a consulting firm specializing in organizational and human resources issue.

These personality traits and characteristics are examined in the Seven Motivational Value System pyramids, which are presented at the end of the book. This system is a tool to categorize certain personality and behavioral traits into colors. This is to help show individuals how and why we are different from each other and to teach us to be aware of differences in order to better handle conflict.

Here is how the pyramid is arranged, quoted from the book:

• BLUE: Altruistic-Nurturing
•    Concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others.
• RED: Assertive-Directing
•    Concern for task accomplishments
•    Concern for organization of people, time, money, and any other resources to achieve desired results.
• GREEN: Analytical-Autonomizing
•    Concern for assurance that things have been properly thought out.
•    Concern for meaningful order being established and maintained.
• HUB: (Blue-Red-Green): Flexible-Cohering
•    Concern for flexibility
•    Concern for members of the group, the welfare of the group, and belonging in the group.
• RED-BLUE: Assertive-Nurturing
•    Concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others through task accomplishment and leadership
• RED-GREEN: Judicious-Competing
•    Concern for intelligent assertiveness, justice, leadership, order, and fairness in competition.
• BLUE-GREEN: Cautious-Supporting
•    Concern for affirming and developing self-sufficiency in self and others
•    Concern for thoughtful helpfulness with regard for justice

It is helpful to have a copy of this pyramid of personalities listed in the back of the book while reading, since they are referred to throughout the story.
Applying the book’s principles

I feel this book can be very useful in not only self-discovery and identifying one’s personality, but as a tool to build awareness among team members.

For example, without labeling or judging personalities, each team member can use the pyramid to uncover which personality he or she possesses. As the group shares their findings in a fun and educational way,  it can assist in breaking down some barriers that may have lead to conflict.

Since conflict often exists in the workplace because of personality conflicts, this just may be the tool to helping everyone understand each other better. The result will be less conflict, perhaps, or at least more productive communication.

As a manager, I seek to always understand and empathize with people. This has served me well, but has not always been easy or effective with all types of personalities. I have learned from this book to keep trying and to work harder to make sense of this mystery of psychology, and in general grasping why people act the way they do, which is fascinating and makes life interesting.
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