In any team working environment, some amount of conflict is to be expected – and can even be considered healthy. That is, as long as the matter gets addressed and resolved. Differing viewpoints are only natural as we all view life through our own lenses, with perspectives that are moulded by our conditioning and upbringing. Varying personalities and points of view can actually bring fresh ideas and perspectives to what is being worked on, if handled in a mindful way.
When ideas or values collide, it can be very easy for things to get personal. Instead of taking the vulnerable route, most of us tend to bury our feelings or go on the defensive, putting up walls that only create separation rather than bridges that would allow for communication and compromise. Our insecurity causes us to ignore the issue (which can bottle up and explode), our pride causes us to complain about it, and our ego places the blame elsewhere. It takes a lot of courage to address issues head on and to be willing to be vulnerable about our position in order to find a resolution – but this is essential in teamwork and leadership.
Stepping aside from our personal attachment to the way we think and ideas we have, it can be incredibly valuable to be able to recognise and appreciate where each team member is coming from and the viewpoints they possess. Maintaining authenticity in leadership is as much about honouring ourselves as it is honouring our colleagues as well. Confrontation will always be uncomfortable, regardless of who you are. Most of the time, we don't deal with confrontation, we react to it, which can be counterproductive. When we allow ourselves to show up, to be sincere in our experience of the situation, and to be vulnerable, we show others it is ok to do the same – or at least it encourages them to do the same - and this requires tremendous courage.
Should conflict arise within your team, here are 9 tips to help you address the situation at hand:
- Deal with conflict as it happens. So often issues become larger than they were because they are initially avoided. Tackle the problem head on.
- Discuss the impact and possible resolutions as a team. Allow the team to become a part of the discussion without ganging up or taking sides. Consider the greater good of the team as a whole and be sincere about the effect that this conflict is having on the team dynamic.
- Set ground rules and boundaries. In order to keep things from getting messy, create agreements rather than relying on expectations.
- Allow for both sides to be heard in order to get the whole story. So often what we ultimately want is to feel heard and to have our thoughts and feeling respected. Give everyone a chance to be heard.
- Be prepared to listen as much as you are willing to speak. Try to avoid interrupting. Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters - remember that!
- Be open to constructive criticism. Criticism can be hard to take for many people, but coming from the right place, constructive criticism is essential to help us grow and continue to succeed. Be open to hearing what others have to say. You can always decided to take or leave their advice.
- Be respectful and patient. Don’t get personal or play the blame game.
- Everyone must agree to cooperate in finding a solution. Let this be a team effort for the sake of the team.
- Find a compromise. If a solution cannot be found, search for the middle ground. Find ways in which both sides can meet each other half way.
As cliché as it may sound, there is no “I” in “team”. Working well together, particularly in the midst of conflict, is a key component to success and high achievement. Use diversity to your advantage. Know that it brings additional knowledge, ideas and resources to the table. Should conflict arise, you now have the tips to work it through!