Despite a leader’s best intentions, it’s impossible to avoid conflict. But actually, do we always want to avoid or suppress conflict? After all, isn’t it normal and natural when you have different people working together, that they will see the world differently? And consider… without conflict, we would never have innovation.
A really good leader is not going to be satisfied with maintaining the status quo. Instead, they support their teams towards improved performance. As agents of change, leaders should naturally expect to encounter push back and yes at times, outright resistance from time to time.
So, what do you need to know about conflict and how to resolve it? I really enjoyed reading a recent article from fellow coach Sonia McDonald. Take a look.
So, as a leader and team member, how can you deal with and manage conflict?
The Cost of Unresolved Conflict
While it might be tempting to ignore conflict, especially if it’s minor, don’t!
Unresolved conflict damages morale. It creates barriers to communication, cooperation, trust and respect. It creates resentment and can split your team and stop your workflow.
To be an effective leader, you must expect and deal with conflict.
Understanding the Source of Conflict
Where does conflict come from? Is there always a “right” and “wrong” party? The answer is no.
The source of almost all conflicts can be reduced to one of two things: miscommunication or emotions running out of control.
Once you pinpoint the source, you can plan how to handle it.
Miscommunication is a big issue
One of the biggest sources of conflict is misunderstanding. Someone gets the ‘bull by the horns’ and it starts trouble. That’s why it’s so important to be careful with what you say, and make sure everyone has received the correct message.
A good leader works hard on their communication skills, and they usually spend a lot of time talking with their teams. That’s important because it lets the team get used to the leader’s communication style, which makes it less likely they’ll be misunderstood.
Improving your communications with others will reduce the likelihood of conflicts within your team.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Have you ever become caught up in the moment and said or done something that you knew you’d regret, but you said or did it anyway?
It’s OK to admit it! Nearly everyone, at one time or another, has let their emotions get the best of them. When this happens, conflict soon follows.
Smart leaders learn how to use their emotional intelligence to help them “calm down” in difficult situations. They self-regulate and control their emotions, so they can pause and take a breath before they act.
When you’re dealing with a team member who’s hot under the collar, remember how you felt last time you lost it, and let the person get all that emotion out before you try to solve the problem. When the emotion is spent, you can start to talk rationally to each other. And don’t hold it against them. We all say things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment, and sometimes there’s an element of truth there which you would not have picked up on any other way.
Eliminate Hot Spots of Contention
Being an effective leader isn’t just about improving your communications and defusing a crisis. One of the best ways to reduce conflict is to anticipate situations where it’s likely to occur and put plans in place to avoid it or minimise the impact.
This is a pretty good framework for conflict reduction in your workplace:
Create Clarity Around Roles
Conflicts happen when members of your team don’t understand their role and responsibilities. Take the time to talk to your people about their job duties, and make sure they know what they are responsible for.
See the Opportunity in Conflict
Conflict isn’t always bad because it can act as a bridge to greater understanding between parties. Examining the events that led up to the conflict, and, taking steps to resolve it can be a great teaching moment where everyone involved can learn more about themselves and others. Remember to talk about the conflict once it’s resolved to help your team members discover the learning moments for themselves.
Make Certain You Understand Everyone’s Motivation Before You Weigh In
Leaders act as facilitators and bring others together. When it comes to resolving conflicts, however, you must make certain you understand everyone’s motivations before you take a stance.
When faced with a decision, try not to think about who’s wrong or right. Instead, think about the motivation of each person and look for ways everyone can “win,” or achieve some of their goals. That’s the way to create a solution everyone can live with.
Want to know more about enhancing communication in your team and managing conflict effectively? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about training and coaching to build strategies to enhance your conflict resolution skills.