Here are some simple steps that help you dance through the conflicts successfully As certainly as there will be a dawn after a long night there will always be misunderstandings and disagreements in human communication. In other words conflicts. The art of successful team management lies not within escaping these but facing and navigating confrontations in a peaceful and open manner.
Keep communication lines open. Always.
Conflicts arise from misinterpretations, misunderstandings and confusion. Best way to prevent these from escalating is to keep communication lines open no matter what. And I mean – always open, especially when things get tough.
Answer phone calls. Read your e-mails and respond. If all you can do is write I am so sorry for the inconvenience my action has put you through“, please do this.
What we need the most in hot situations is actually very basic and humane things to be heard and to be cared for. It all comes down to simple things. Sometimes it takes ages for a person to ventilate his or her negative feelings and you do not have to become a full-time shrink, but you must keep communication lines open if you are interested in restoring peace and letting go of resentment, efficiently.
Do not ignore little disagreements.
It always starts small. Little things go usually unnoticed and over time these may build up huge resentment. If we keep ignoring these little fire alarms we have no other choice than to constantly fight big fires. I’d suggest to create a space within the company culture or even make it your weekly routine to give time and attention to inconvenient“ topics. In other words, have a meeting or space (intranet) where people can share honestly about their worries and make sure that the environment is buffered with trust.
You must keep focus on your business, of course, and you do not have to make a weekly team meeting let’s hear your concerns“ place but you need to consider emotional needs of your people, too. A little more informal meeting on Fridays may serve your team well. Make sure you open up first and show your vulnerability to encourage others. Trust creates trust. Plus it is a magical force to build a strong team.
Focus on needs first, not on behavioral strategies.
Whatever action we take in our lives it is always an attempt to meet our personal needs. We all long for love, support, self-worth, kindness, self-realization, belonging, trust etc. Sometimes we use cruel or careless ways to attain what we need and we may even try to get our needs met on the expense of other people. Whatever we do in attempt to meet those beautiful human needs we all carry inside our hearts, is called a strategy. All conflicts in the world are based on strategies. Our needs never ever conflict, but strategies to meet these needs may do so quite often.
Take a love triangle for example. Every person involved is hoping to meet their needs for love, respect and belonging. If you take time and dig deeper you’ll see that the love triangle may not be the best way to meet these needs. It may be a very lousy strategy in the first place. But lots of people have become criminals in such situations, only because they could not see a broader perspective! First focus on the needs and strategies that are not conflicting with other people’s needs that start popping up in your mind soon. Even the strategies on how to solve a certain conflict situation may appear. Usually conflicts disappear naturally if a connection with needs is established.
Provide what is needed. Connection, resources, time, support etc.
Lots of conflicts are based on the lack of resources. The scarcity may be real – not enough food or water – or just perceived, like the lack of trust, openness, time, support. However, if a fight happens first thing you must do is to find out what was the original source of it. We come back to the human needs once again. What is that the parties in conflict need the most? Is it in your power to provide them what they need? If not can you do something to reach out for that power? Often it is not the same what people want and what they actually need.
Somebody criticizing politicians may not need a real social change but just some attention and maybe friendly support. Another thing is that people may often project their unmet needs in personal life to someone who has authority in their eyes. Prime minister suddenly becomes Daddy“ for every citizen that has suffered from the lack of paternal love. If you are a team leader and a business owner you must keep in mind that the expectations people have on you are much higher than what they have on their colleagues or themselves. Find out what they really need, estimate your resources to meet those needs and provide it.
Be firm, yet friendly.
If you have some authority in the group, people often try to manipulate your good will. Firmness and clarity comes in handy. Conflicts can sometimes be perceived as a way of getting one’s wants met and not taking responsibility at the same time.
Children throw tantrums and so do grownups but in a more sophisticated manner. Do not let yourself be bullied by that! Set boundaries, be firm, be consistent in your requirements and at the same time be patient and friendly, too. As a woman leader you may notice soon that skills you need to navigate through motherhood are actually the same that make you a great boss.
Sometimes open wars“ happen.
You may do your best to avoid conflicts in front of public (media, social media) but still not escape these completely. It’s okay. Breathe deeply and remember that life has a way to always carry on. People will forgive and forget. Some wont, but you cannot consider this as your personal problem. Most people take public conflicts as a community entertainment. They may give verbal judgements but in reality lots of people feel neutral about you and your adversaries.
Focus on the positive outcomes and let go of everything else. You do not need to justify your behaviour or choices endlessly. However, giving a public interview or explaining in written form your perspective on what happened, may be a good idea. Just do not do it before you feel you are able to keep a resentful-free and as neutral position as possible. They say all is fair in love and war. It’s true. Accept it and move on with your life and business.