We’ve all experienced it before and rarely is it an enjoyable time – conflict among team members. It’s unfortunately something that we as leaders have forced upon us and it becomes one of our problems to solve for the greater good. This week I’ve chosen to write about some of the techniques that I use when addressing conflict within my team.
Maintain Your Composure
“Keep your head when others are losing theirs” is one of my favorite quotes and really one of my guiding career principles when things tend to get a little on the stressful side. Good leaders are the ones who can remain calm and focused when the situation around them has others not being able to hang onto their cool. Conflicts often times can cause (or be the cause of) raised voices and hard feelings which can have a huge negative impact on the collective psyche of your team. It’s crucial for leaders who are witnessing (or embroiled in) conflict to maintain their composure in all situations. Team members will often follow the traits of their leaders and if the leaders can’t keep things buttoned up, then the team members are not far behind until it is complete anarchy in your organization. In the face of difficult conflict it’s critical that as a leader you remain calm, cool and collected in order to help facilitate or mediate a solution.
Understand Both Sides
Often conflicts arise out of miscommunications or misunderstandings. Remote teams are especially vulnerable to this and this should be explained to team members that something someone says may not always have the intended meaning that you take it for (see my post about encoding and decoding messages for more!). In any conflict it is important that everyone involved try to understand the others’ perspective. Perhaps there was terminology used that gave the other party an inaccurate understanding of the point; possibly there was an inference made that is invalid; there are any number of things that can lead to this. As someone who is responsible for helping resolve conflict, it’s crucial that you as a leader understand all sides. This can only help try to mediate the conflict by explaining to the affected parties the intended message that caused the conflict in the first place.
Be Tough but Be Fair
There are times when resolving conflicts is going to require a tough decision to be made. One direction or the other – someone is likely to be disappointed but it’s incredibly important that as a leader you are making decisions that are best for the organization/project and not specifically just for one affected team member. These situations might require a difficult conversation however if you can rationally justify your decision then there’s no reason for anyone to question your judgement. Leaders are tasked with making decisions every day. Some (hopefully most) are right, some are wrong. It’s important though that as a leader, when tasked with making a difficult decision that you step up and be tough enough to make and stand by that decision.
Conflicts are never a joyful thing to resolve but it takes a special type of person to be able to successfully do that. Empathy, toughness and understanding all are key aspects to successfully navigating through conflicts but the one key thing leaders cannot forget is to make decisions that are for the good of the collective, not just the individual.
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