As we close out the year, it is a good time to reflect on the goals we set for 2017, progress made, and challenges overcome. It is also a good time to reflect on things that may have held us back from reaching our goals. In the last Leaders Evolve blog, we talked about lack of self-awareness as the #1 thing that holds leaders back. Here is another item on the Ten Things That Hold Leaders Back: having poor conflict management skills.
If you are in any type of leadership role, the ability to manage conflict is critical. Conflict is inevitable as it is a natural component of team development and growth. Here are a few things to keep in mind as a leader:
- Conflict is not always a bad thing.
- Conflict is often avoided.
- When avoided, conflict can fester and become harmful to the individuals involved in the conflict as well as other team members.
- Providing your team with skills to manage conflict is a powerful way to improve team dynamics.
What can you do when there is conflict on your team?
Encourage your team members to:
- Honor differences in individual conflict styles
- Have open conversations directly with the parties involved
- Share specific behaviors (what was actually said or done) as opposed to the way those behaviors were interpreted and labeled
- State the impact of the behaviors
- Actively listen (be present, listen for understanding, paraphrase, summarize)
- Find out what needs are not being met so that the expectations of all parties are understood
- Assume that all parties have good intentions
- Talk about resolution in a collaborative way. Ask questions such as:
- “What do we both want?”
- “How can we resolve this in a way that respects our individual needs?”
- Be willing to compromise
- Be mindful of their own verbal and non-verbal communication
By engaging in this type of dialogue, individuals often discover that they have made invalid assumptions, typically in the absence of information. Assumptions are tricky and often result in conclusions that do not serve either party well (they are typically not positive). If both parties are open and willing to do the work to resolve the conflict, the negative assumptions will be clarified and positive solutions will be achieved. Communication, not avoidance, is the key!
On a related note, I frequently ask leaders what their struggles are regarding giving feedback. The responses indicate that the lack of feedback stems from a desire to avoid a negative reaction, a flat-out denial, uncomfortable tension, or hurt feelings. ATTENTION: This is a form of conflict avoidance that can prevent your direct reports from performing at their highest level. Follow the tips above and engage in open dialogue with your direct reports.
And yes, you guessed it; FEEDBACK (failure to give feedback, recognition and praise) is on the Ten Things That Hold Leaders Back list as well. Stay tuned.
Until next time,
Jackie Kindall, CEO