Here is my five step process to manage conflict on your team.
I have experienced that people see conflict in a team as a bad thing. I would love to show you why conflict on a team is a good thing, simply by making it something that you can manage.
What is conflict?
Conflict is a differing of opinions. It is two people, or more, having a point of view based on what they are thinking and believing. Simple really. They (one of the parties involved) sit in a place of believing that ‘they know’ what should or shouldn’t be happening so much, that they are right and others are wrong. They believe that they know better than the other person. This person gets so stuck in their ‘I know” mindset that they aren’t able to see others point of view. And, in this mindset they are likely to not even hear what the other person is saying, let alone be rational about their response. I have been very good at this in the past. Sitting in my I know mind and arguing with others.
So here is my simple process for managing conflict. I have used it with warring teams, and in personal conflict situations. I have found it works.
How to manage conflict
Be the listener
Someone needs to sit and be the neutral listener. It is that persons job to sit and listen to what each person in the conflict is saying. Really listen to their words. Hear where they are putting the emphasis on words. These are places that they feel really strongly about. Take down notes on what you are hearing.
Confirm what you heard and ask for more information
“John I heard you say that….. can you tell me why you feel so strongly about that.” By showing that you are listening, the person involved in the conflict will feel heard. They will feel acknowledged. These two things, being heard and feeling acknowledged are two things that as children we wanted so much, and believed that we didn’t get. Any time you can have someone feel acknowledged and listened to you will help to take some of the emotion out of the situation.
Notice how the conflict situation begins to change
By acknowledging and showing that YOU are listening to each of the parties involved in the conflict you might notice that the intensity of the disagreement changes. You will begin to see rationality returning to the emotionally driven situation. The people involved will begin to calm down. You may need to repeat steps one and two until you feel that all of the emotion has dissolved. You will know for yourself when it is right to move to step four.
Confirm each parties point of view
Up until now each of the parties won’t necessarily have been listening to what the others have been saying. It is valuable for you to now put forward the key points from each of the parties.”John you said… this and this and this.””Greg you said… this and this and this.”Notice how each of the parties takes in what you have said. You may see that there is an emotional response from one of them to something you said. This lets you know that there is still some work to do.If you see this sort of response, again acknowledge what you’ve seen. “John I noticed you …. when I said….., would you tell me what is happening for you?” The response that you receive here may be irrational. This person may have been triggered unconsciously by a childhood experience. They might feel as though you haven’t understood them, for example. Simply acknowledge again that you heard them. Allow space for them to hear that. If you notice that both parties are both calm and fully take in what is being said without any emotional response, then you are ready to move to step five.
Negotiate an agreed outcome
Once you have each person feeling acknowledged and heard then you can begin to negotiate an outcome. This is about finding a mutual playing ground for the parties involved. I have often found that this will naturally occur, that the parties involved in the conflict will begin to discuss amongst themselves what they see can be done for a mutual outcome. I have seen teams that were at total war with each other become the tightest teams working together, once they got to this point of understanding each others point of view. They got to see how much they really had in common, that they were both wanting the same thing for the business. This happened once the emotion was taken out of the situation and both parties got to see and hear the others perspective.
This approach takes you, as the leader to be the impartial party, listening and acknowledging. It takes a little time and yet the outcome is something that lasts.
What if you are one of the two parties involved in the conflict?
If you are one of the parties involved in the conflict, it doesn’t change the approach. It may be harder to take yourself out of the emotional space, into that space as the listener. What is it that you are thinking about the other person? How do you see them? What is it that you believe they aren’t doing?
Take some time out to reflect on these questions in order to calm the situation for yourself, then you might feel more able to go back to the person and talk to them from a more non-emotional and reactive space.
Look forward to conflict
So, look forward to conflict in your team, as you have a way of working with it that will change the way your team operates moving forward.
Give this simple process a try and let me know your feedback.
Want to improve your conflict management skills?
If you are interested in holding or attending a Team Conflict Resolution Workshop then reach out and connect and we can discuss your needs. The workshop will suit teams that are struggling to connect in order to deliver or where there are blockages to delivery in specific areas. Individual coaching is also available to improve your skills to manage conflict. I am available in person, via telephone or Skype.