Reposted and edited by LEI, from SwitzeronLeadership.com
Ronald Reagan once said that “peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” All of us will experience conflict both individually and in groups, but the ability to manage through that conflict will separate the high performing leaders and teams from the rest.
Conflict is normal. It is neither good nor bad. What makes the difference is how we manage conflict. Done right, it is very beneficial. Not managed well, it can lead to a variety of issues. High performing teams learn to communicate, value each other, and work through conflict. Understanding and managing conflict will enhance your leadership skills.
The first thing to understand about conflict is that all conflict is not the same. There are different types of conflict that arise between individuals and among teams. It’s important to identify which type(s) of conflict affects your team. This will help you utilize the right strategies to resolve the conflict.
- Develop a plan to resolve the problem.
- Accept conflict as natural, rather than good or bad.
- Identify where there is agreement, and disagreement.
- Identify which type of conflict is present when it occurs.
- Look for common ground where collaboration can begin.
- Acknowledge conflict is present, and clarify the facts in issue.
- Facilitate team members in building relationships with one another.
- Build consensus around how the team will manage conflict – develop rules of engagement.
- Manage conflict patiently and recognize that it is the only conflict. Avoid personalizing it. Focus on the problem, not the other team members, unless it is relational conflict.
A key tool for helping improve your ability to identify and resolve conflict within your team is to understand your conflict management style. This can be done by taking a conflict style profile assessment. Some managers have a direct style, while others may have an avoidance, collaborative, or accommodating style. Knowing your style will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses so you can adjust to the conflict at hand when needed.
Think about your team and the conflict it has gone through in the past. Can you relate those experiences to some of the information you just read? Could you have been more effective in dealing with that conflict?
As a leader, you have a strong influence on how the conflict will be resolved. A team can GO through the conflict or GROW through the experience leading the team stronger and/or demonstrating your ability to lead your team. “Managers are key in setting open communication norms and a cohesive and friendly environment which enhances both members’ attitudes and the group’s overall performance” (Jehn & Mannix, 2001).
- Amanuel Tekleab, Narda R. Quigley, and Paul E. Tesluk, “A Longitudinal Study of Team Conflict, Conflict Management, Cohesion, and Team Effectiveness,” Group and Organizational Management, 34(2,) (April 2009), 170-205
- Jehn, K. A., & Mannix, E. A. (2001). The Dynamic Nature Of Conflict: A Longitudinal Study Of Intragroup Conflict And Group Performance. Academy of Management Journal, 44(2), 238–251. doi: 10.2307/3069453