The bad news is that leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand. The great news is that as a leader you can address conflict in a way that does not destroy team morale, employee engagement, healthy partnerships or your organization.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” (John Maxwell)
#The bad news is that leadership & conflict go hand-in-hand. The great news is that as a leader you can address conflict without destroying team morale, employee engagement, healthy partnerships or your organization. Click To Tweet
Whilst many leaders and business owners do their best to avoid causing conflict or avoid dealing with it altogether, the fact remains that wherever there are more than two human beings there is bound to be personality incompatibility, difference in opinion, resistance to change or, simply, bad behaviour.
No conversation about internal or external relationship-building in any growing organization can take place without mentioning the quality of leadership, or the lack thereof, within the organization. Good leadership is not passive. It’s a full-on, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-in-the-trenches contact sport that requires interaction with partners, peers and subordinates. Unfortunately, in the process of leadership, conflict is bound to happen.
#Good leadership is not passive. It’s a full-on, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-in-the-trenches contact sport that requires interaction with partners, peers and subordinates. Click To Tweet
The Cost of Conflict to Businesses
Some of the best leaders in the world are highly intuitive, and are well versed in understanding human behaviour. They have a knack for spotting potential conflict, recognising and understanding the nature of any that arise, and the decisiveness to initiate or implement a conflict resolution strategy that meets organizational objectives. The inability to nip conflict in the bud early can have dire consequences like class action lawsuits, industrial tribunal cases, partnership dissolutions, bankruptcy or more.
Part of our team has had extensive experience helping C-suite executives navigate some of the toughest conflicts of their careers. In our experience we have found that conflict within organizations, more often than, not boils down to one may thing – communication. Whether the communication is verbal, written or through systems and processes, a breakdown can lead to misunderstandings of gigantic proportions.In our experience we have found that conflict within organizations, more often than, not boils down to one may thing - communication. Click To Tweet
We recently watched an interview where a leading South African business owner, Janez Vermeiren, shared his experience of conflict in business. Mr. Vermeiren and his then business partner had differing opinions on how to bounce back from a costly investment. That difference in opinion ended their business relationship as well as their business. Although, in some cases, the only way to end conflict is to part ways, an effective resolution framework can help save strategic alliances for future benefit.
Having an effective conflict resolution process in place is a must for every organization, no matter what size the organization is. This goes beyond the standard HR reporting system to looking at engagement through the lenses of internal communication, company culture, emotional intelligence and community.
Why Leadership Matters During Conflict
The heart and soul of any organization is heavily influenced by leadership. Leaders drive vision, inspire growth and lead the way to sustainable growth and development. The true cost of unresolved conflict is much more than the leaders’ egos and pockets. Employees also bear the brunt. When employees work under leaders they perceive to lack the capacity to resolve conflict, what arises is a lack of trust, insubordination, disengagement, high talent attrition, damage to reputational capital, and in very severe cases, a complete shutdown of projects or businesses.
#When employees work under leaders they perceive to lack the capacity to resolve conflict, what arises is a lack of trust, insubordination, disengagement, high talent attrition, damage to reputational capital, and in very severe… Click To Tweet
Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. When a dispute arises, often the best course of action is negotiation or mediation to resolve the disagreement. Where there is no chance of resolution, a mutual agreement can be reached to ensure organizational objectives are maintained and disruption to business is minimised.
If you ever have to handle conflict in your leadership role, or between members of your organization, here are four key considerations that could help you navigate the process effectively:
1. Acknowledge the conflict
Identify specifically what the conflict is about within bias. Write down what the key grievances are, remembering to remain objective. If you hold the grievance, approach the other person about it and agree to discuss the conflict at a scheduled time in an agreed location. If you are a leader mediating a conflict, arrange a meeting to get a clear understanding of the conflict from both perspectives before making a decision. If your judgement is biased, involve a fellow leader who can remain objective. In an ideal world, everything should go swimmingly. However, remember that one party may not be as receptive to feedback, change or a resolution. This is where it’s important to possess both effective communication and leadership skills, and to cultivate a culture where feedback is shared regularly.
2. Discuss the conflict to resolve it
A conflict can only be resolved if all parties are interested in a solution that is mutually beneficial for all. The worst thing that can happen in a conflict resolution meeting is discussions that go round and round in circles with no objective to find a solution. Discussions should give each party the opportunity to share experiences and the impact of these on personal performance and productivity. If you are a party in the conflict, remember that to be understood you must seek to understand the other party. Invite them to respond to your account of events, and actively listen to what they also have to say. Listen to understand before responding. Ask questions to clarify and repeat back what you have understood so you do not end up with more misunderstandings. Make sure you are on the same page before moving to a solution.
3. Agree on a solution
In an ideal scenario, a solution that is mutually beneficial means the conflict is resolved quickly. However, where this is a challenge, discuss alternative solutions. Decide on a mutually acceptable solution as well as the next steps to be implemented in a timely manner. Thank the other person for their commitment to resolving the issue. If it is a difficult conflict that does not have a quick solution, start with small milestones and build on this. Agree to use an external advisor or mediator if necessary.
4. Follow up
The word, “OK,” is not always a guarantee that the conflict has been resolved. Many people use it to shorten or end the process due to discomfort. Therefore, follow up is important. Follow up to ensure the conflict has been resolved and the working relationship has not been adversely impacted. If necessary, define communication and relationship boundaries whilst remembering that the organizational objectives need to be met at all times.