Episode 243: Ralph Kilmann, the co-creator of the Thomas Kilmann conflict mode instrument (TKI), discusses his lifelong work on how to resolve conflict and improve collaboration. Kilmann explains that his interest in conflict stems from his personal experiences growing up in a family affected by conflict and his academic studies on conflict management. He and his colleague developed the TKI assessment to measure the different ways people approach conflict, and it has become a widely used tool in organizations. Conflict is inevitable and not inherently bad, but it needs to be managed effectively. This week’s podcast discusses the importance of addressing inner conflicts and the role of systems in conflict management. Leaders can create a positive conflict culture by modeling effective conflict management behaviors and working to change the systems that support conflict resolution. Discover some powerful phrases for addressing conflict and highlights the need to address conflicts at both the interpersonal and organizational levels.
Resolve Conflict Like a Pro: Unveiling Ralph Kilmann’s Secrets
(00:03) Introduction to Ralph Kilman’s Expertise on Conflict:
Ralph Kilmann, recognized for his 50-year dedication to understanding workplace conflict and collaboration. He highlights his unique background and the relevance of conflict management in today’s diverse and rapidly changing world.
(01:00) Inspiration Behind Focusing on Conflict:
Ralph shares his personal and academic journey towards conflict management. This includes his family’s history with conflict and his collaboration with Ken Thomas to develop the TKI assessment, addressing social desirability biases in understanding conflict approaches.
(03:51) The Evolution of Conflict Management’s Popularity:
David and Ralph discuss the unforeseen mainstream attention conflict management has received due to global challenges such as workplace diversity, deregulation, and political polarization. They emphasize the increasing importance of conflict resolution skills.
(06:15) The Interplay Between Conflict and Change:
In discussing the intrinsic link between conflict and organizational change, Ralph underscores that resolving conflict effectively leads to change, highlighting the role of systemic factors in shaping conflict behavior within organizations.
(09:30) Systemic Influences on Conflict Resolution:
The conversation delves into how organizational systems, such as culture and reward systems, significantly influence individual conflict behaviors, reinforcing the need for systemic changes to facilitate healthy conflict resolution.
(11:55) Addressing Internal Conflicts:
Kilman explores the concept of foundational inner conflicts, such as the dichotomy between ego and soul, and their impact on external conflict resolution, advocating for self-awareness and internal harmony as prerequisites for effective conflict management.
Discover How to Navigate and Resolve Conflict with Expertise
(18:52) Understanding the TKI Conflict Model:
An overview of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), explaining its foundation on assertiveness and cooperativeness, and the strategic application of its five conflict modes (competing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising, collaborating) for resolving conflicts.
(23:07) Organizational Insights from the TKI:
David and Ralph highlight how comparing TKI results from within and outside the workplace context can reveal systemic issues in organizations. This includes leadership or cultural factors that discourage assertive conflict resolution strategies among employees.
(33:16) Effective Conflict Resolution Phrases and Approaches:
Kilman shares insights on how the delivery and sincerity behind conflict resolution phrases, rooted in compassion and empathy, can significantly influence the outcomes of conflict situations.
(43:06) The Role of Systems in Conflict Resolution and Organizational Change:
This discussion emphasizes the critical need to address organizational systems to enable effective conflict management and facilitate lasting change. They introduce the Kilman Organizational Conflict Instrument as a tool for diagnosing and resolving systemic conflicts.
Thank You to Our Guest
Ralph H. Kilmann, Ph.D., is CEO and Senior Consultant at Kilmann Diagnostics (KD) in Newport Coast, California. Formerly, he was the George H. Love Professor of Organization and Management at the Katz School of Business, University of Pittsburgh—which was his professional home for thirty years. He earned both his B.S. in graphic arts management and M.S. in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University (1970) and a Ph.D. degree in the behavioral sciences in management from the University of California, Los Angeles (1972).
If you’d like more specific, practical phrases and approaches for common sources of workplace conflict, check out our newest book (May 2024—available for pre-order now): Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict—What to say next to de-stress the workplace, build collaboration, and calm difficult customers.