By Shelley Smith
Conflict is perhaps a company’s most misunderstood and underutilized resource. Many people consider conflict a dirty word because they perceive disagreements as shameful or as signs of weakness. But when conflict is used in a healthy way, it can be a catalyst for innovation and can create new challenges, opportunities, and growth for companies.
As an executive coach I have had the luxury of seeing many different teamwork styles in many different industries and over the years I have learned that everyone encounters conflict at some point, so there is nothing to be ashamed about. While the conflicts at your workplace will be different from the ones at the office down the street, they can all be addressed by following three basic steps.
Step #1: Investigate
Dig deep in this first step and ask lots of questions. Focus on the issues at hand, not the personalities involved. Pick a starting point and begin asking “What if?” questions. What happens if we stay the way we are? What happens if we don’t seek client feedback? What happens if we don’t communicate with employees?
The investigation phase should be enjoyable and liberating. You are opening your mind to new ideas and solutions. When you ask a question be sincere and prepared to consider the responses. Don’t ask just for the sake of asking. What you hear may surprise you, but don’t discount any suggestions, no matter how far “out there” they may be. Free yourself from old ways of thinking and let the possibilities wash over you. You aren’t committing to anything yet, so the sky’s the limit!
Step #2: Communicate
Your communication style says a lot about how you handle conflict. You may know your preferred method of communicating, but how are you supposed to know a co-worker’s communication style? A great tool for managers and teams is the Predictive Index®, an assessment that uses science to get to the heart of a person’s motivations and needs. (Read more about the PI and its usefulness to companies here.)
Taking the time to delve into the results the PI can offer will go a long way toward helping you understand how you and your team members hear, process, and deliver information. Once you are aware of the different communication styles in your company you can put that emotional intelligence to work as you approach the third and final step in conflict resolution, collaboration.
Step #3: Collaborate
At this point you have asked “What if?” questions and gathered feedback. If you chose to have the PI done, you also now have an improved understanding of everyone’s unique communication styles. Congratulations, you’re ready to collaborate!
Collaboration works because everyone is able to bring his or her unique perspective to the conversation. Instead of competing and relying on the winner to decide the next move, collaboration gives everyone a voice and a stake in the resolution. When people know their opinions are valuable and respected they will be able to shift their energy away from defending their position to focusing on the issues at hand.
Addressing conflict can be uncomfortable, but taking care of problems as they arise can help keep a misunderstanding from ballooning into a major conflict. Unresolved issues can be toxic to a company, eroding morale and affecting performance. The rewards of successful conflict are a greater feeling of inclusion and an infusion of new energy for the team, the work environment, and the company’s culture.
Remember, conflict is powerful, but how you choose to use that power is up to you.
Interested in how Premier Rapport can help you manage conflict as a resource? E-mail email@example.com.