Whether we like it or not, conflict is inevitable. Sometimes we are aware that a conflict may be brewing. Other times, a difficult conversation unexpectedly lands in our court. In both situations we need to initiate a difficult conversation. How we respond to conflict will influence the outcome.

Here are some reasons that may be stopping us from effectively dealing with conflict:

  • Viewing conflict as a competition. If being right is your main objective, prepare to be disappointed. It is not who is wrong or right, it is about balancing our courage and considering other people’s ideas and opinions.
  • Imagine someone is questioning a new direction that you are leading. You could dismiss them as being wrong and disloyal, but you might be missing out on some good points they are making about this direction. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak. Don’t feel threatened by honest feedback from others. Create the environment for your people to be open to share their thoughts and opinions.
  • Treating conflict as something to be avoided. You could try to avoid the challenging team member altogether, and instead choose to focus your attention on those who see things your way. Doing this builds walls that will be harder to remove later, straining teamwork and creating silos. It can also breed resentment and make what is initially a small conflict to fester and grow. This will reduce productivity and may create a disengaged workforce.

An effective response to dealing with conflict is treating it as an opportunity for learning, engaging, and insight. When you come across conflict, welcome it in and try to learn something from it. When your team member tells you they think that a new project is mismanaged, try to understand why they feel that way.

As you do this you might even realise that this person has a good point and that, by listening, you have learned something useful to help your company and yourself move forward.

Dealing with conflict is an opportunity to develop emotional intelligence and lead by example. As leaders we must get familiar and comfortable to dealing with conflict.

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