I have spent a lot of time dealing with conflict resolution over the last few days, and how it affects my team, my key stakeholders, and me. As a leader, you like to think that every situation has a cut and dry ending. If this happens…then that.
However, business and life are not that simple. For every rule, there is a caveat. For everything that you know to be true, there is a potential loophole. And for every instance of conflict, there is an opportunity for you to lose your team.
Seldom are there absolutes when dealing with conflict. But here are some that may help you.
1. Whomever Yells First, Loses. When managing a difficult situation, you need to keep your cool. You need to keep your judgement clear and screaming and hollering to get your point across will not yield success. You have ceded control to your opponent.
2. Keep an Open Mind. To understand the real issue, you need to listen to the other person’s view and try to see where they are coming from. By getting to the root of the conflict, you can see what a fair and equitable resolution may be- even if you don’t win or agree.
3. When Possible, Seek Input. Not every situation affords you with the opportunity to get input from impartial observers. But when it does, make sure you use those resources. When you are knee deep in the drama and stress of the situation, these people can make you take a pause and see things in a different light. Remember that input is different than gossip.
4. Scorched Earth Does No One Any Good. If you are inevitably going to lose the conflict, destroying everyone associated with the issue does more harm than good. You still need to lead these people, but losing their respect will cause you to be ineffective.
5. Gloating is Worse. No one likes a sore winner. You need to handle the “win” in stride and continue to conduct yourself with class and dignity. People watch how you act in wins and losses to decide whether to follow you.
Staying above the fray, taking a long view of the situation, seeking out others’ input and being a gracious winner/loser are all ways to handle conflict correctly. If all else fails, remember Ralph Cramden’s advice- “Say pins and needles and needles and pins, it’s a happy man that grins.” Then count to ten, you will probably already feel better.