Look conflict is not fun, it’s not pleasant and quiet frankly it becomes frustrating and irritating. However, conflict is inevitable and it’s actually crucial for success. Without conflict, one continues on a path of mediocre performance. However, if we address the conflict, the clash of ideas, positions and personal preferences can become fuel for change, innovative thinking and thought provoking new ideas. Unresolved conflict will destroy personal relationships and create a division within an organization or team.
John C. Maxwell said; “People naturally see themselves in the light of their intentions, but they measure others according to their actions.” Man that was me. I use to avoid conflict all cost. Well that’s probably not entirely true. I think it would be more accurate to say, that I use to instigate conflict when I could.
Most leaders don’t respond well to conflict. In fact, I believe most leaders will avoid it and choose the easiest, rather than the most effective way to handle it. In John Maxwell’s Guide to Managing Conflict”, he listed six typical responses to conflict. I found these to be right on, so I want to share them with you. How many have you used? Personally, I used all six at some time in my personal life or professional career.
- Win at all costs. It’s like a shootout at the OK Corral. It’s quick, brutal, and destructive.
- Pretend it doesn’t exist. Even if they hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil, evil will still exist. It will simply grow unsupervised.
- Whine about it. Playing the victim doesn’t cure conflict. It just irritates everybody on the team.
- Keep score. People who keep a record of wrongs can never start fresh. And nobody can ever truly get “even.”
- Pull rank. Using position never really solves conflict. It merely postpones it.
- White flag it. Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
But, how can we address conflict and avoid these failed responses? First, I think you have to truly care about the conflict, reason for the conflict and the person you have a conflict with. Second, we need to fully understand and comprehend the facts surrounding the reason for conflict. Once we show we care, indicate we fully understand the facts surrounding the situation and we are prepared to approach a resolution from a humble perspective, then I believe you can effective solve the conflict. How? By fully implementing and following the 6 principles listed below. Again, these were taken from John’s “Guide to Managing Conflict”;
- Confront a person only if you care about that person. It is more productive to go into a confrontation keeping the other person’s interests in mind.
- Meet together as soon as possible. When conflict arises, human nature is inclined to avoid it and procrastinate regarding resolution. The reality is, that by putting off confrontation, the situation can only deteriorate further. Get together face-to-face.
- First seek understanding, not necessarily agreement. The person who gives an opinion before he or she understands is human, but the person who gives a judgment before he or she understands is a fool. The truth is, you cannot reach understanding if your focus is on yourself.
- Outline the issue. Be positive, describe your perceptions, state how this situation makes you feel, and explain why this is important to you. Engaging in this process without emotional heat or bitterness is essential.
- Encourage a response. Try to build a dialogue – be sure to let the other person talk while you actively listen. Maxwell talks about the following observations when confronting people:
- 50% of the time people don’t realize there’s a problem.
- 30% of the time they realize there’s a problem, but they don’t know how to solve it.
- 20% of the time they recognize the problem and don’t want to fix it.
- A solution can be had 80% of the time merely by engaging and seeking a response.
- Agree to an action plan. Be sure the plan clearly identifies the issue and spells out concrete steps that will be taken. The action plan should include a commitment by both parties to put the issue to rest once resolved.
Learn to identify the potential conflict and make adjustments in your approach, thinking and desires. However, if conflict occurs, then it must be addressed. Following the 6 principles above will help ensure the conflict is fully, effectively and completely resolved. Dealing with conflict won’t hurt relationships, in fact it strengthens the bond between people and teams.
John C. Maxwell said, “Successful confrontation usually changes both people, not just one.” I agree. Every conflict that I have effectively solved has made me a better leader. I encourage you to resolve conflict quickly. Don’t let it build!