5 Ways Conflict May Be Holding You Back
Addressing and resolving conflicts requires enormous mental and emotional strength, which is why many of us try to avoid it. We tend to either move away (flight), move against (fight) or move toward (make nice, give in) a disagreement. Fact: Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. Being able to bring swift and just resolution will serve you well as a leader. The inability to do so may well be your downfall.
1. Person who picks a fight. Karen, office manager in a small firm, is often angry. One day started yelling at
Jeff, a tech, and stopped talking to him or providing the information and support he needed. He backed off and his performance dropped substantially.
Outcome: Because Stuart, their boss, said nothing, the situation continued for several weeks. Karen finally decided not to be angry anymore (who knew why?) and things returned to normal. What a waste!
2. The Person Who Avoids a Fight. Roger, the CEO of a business that he started 5 years earlier with two friends was ready to build a company structure and culture that could sustain its rapid growth.
Justin, one of the founders, did not have the skills or aptitude to do the job that he was assigned. He was holding the company back. He had been Roger’s best friend since 3rd grade and he did not want to confront him even though his presence was negatively impacting the company.
Outcome: After several years, Roger sold the firm, paid off Justin and started another similar firm. It might have been a lot easier if he had confronted the issue right away.
3. The person who is unaware that a conflict exists. The absence of conflict in a team is one of Patrick Lencioni’s five team dysfunctions1. David’s leadership team met weekly to review progress of projects, business development and budgets. Team members didn’t challenge each other and no one was held accountable for under-performance. Week and after week the same issues would come up and little progress was made.
Outcome: After a few months working with them, they changed the way they interacted. The result was a much higher level of performance and innovation throughout the company.
4. Person who always has to win a fight was Steve Jobs. Even though he accomplished great things, he never listened and usually bullied both his employees and his Board.
Outcome: He was ousted in 1985 and didn’t return for nearly 10 years. True, that’s when he started Pixar, but that could have happened under the Apple brand… and it cause the company to lose profits.
5. Person Who Embraces Conflict to encourage innovation.
When team members see that they can emerge from conflict with relationships intact and a greater understanding of other viewpoints, the team is stronger and the company thrives. When healthy conflict is not encouraged, ideas stagnate and innovation screeches to a halt.
Example: David’s leadership team (#3 above) held two strategic retreats over three years. The first was a “ho-hummer”, not yielding many great ideas.
2 years later, it was a different story! They authentically shared their ideas, were prepared to defend them, and then come to agreement on the best ones. There was a high level of energy during the meeting with a few intense discussions, some hearty laughter, and great ideas.
Outcome: A set of dynamic initiatives that dramatically increased the company’s revenues was created.
Courage, resilience and agility in the face of change are the skills needed to lead your company to success. The ability to manage conflict is part and parcel of all three.
Are you managing conflict in a way that encourages collaboration and innovation?
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