Conflict Management

April 4, 2018

Three critical tools to resolve any conflict

How long has it been since you got into conflict with someone?  This morning? Last night? Five minutes ago?  We walk into conflict situations constantly. Sometimes we know in advance that the situation we are about to enter is filled with landmines.  But sometimes, conflict takes us by surprise when we were expecting to sail smoothly through the situation.

There are lots of reasons why that happens. Most often, it is because we either haven’t set the stage well enough, or we don’t know the people involved well enough — including ourselves.

Here at Ignite, my partner Deb and I often have conflicting ideas or approaches about how to work through a problem or achieve a goal. Because we use the following three tools when conflict arises, we have a strong relationship. When conflict arises, we take it head-on.

First, we both always try to “start with heart.”  This is the foundational idea of the book, Crucial Conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler).  The authors suggest that in a crucial conversation, which generally is a conflict situation, you first have to get clear on what you want for yourself and for the relationship when you get to the other side of the conversation/situation.  As partners, Deb and I know that on the other side, we want to still be partners who love working together, so we do what it takes – asking probing questions, stepping away to cool off or contemplate, and remembering to trust – to protect ourselves and the relationships.

Second, we each know how the other prefers to communicate.  I like to work fast, check things off, and move on to the next thing.  Deb, however, is more reflective.  She likes to spend a bit of time thinking through the different aspects as well as the process that needs to be involved.  Early on, I’ll admit this caused some tension. But now, we keep this at the forefront of our thinking and try to accommodate each other’s preferences.  Knowing this about each other helps us avoid some unnecessary conflict.

Finally, we respect each other’s WHY, and fortunately, there is a lot of similarity between the two of us in what drives us.  We both like to have lots of information about, well — everything.  We both love new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.  But Deb is much more collaborative than I am. I am a “Let me be in charge” person.  Also, Deb focuses on ROI (which is great for our business), while that is not a real driver for me.  Knowing these things about each other when conflict arises means we know how to give and take so that we aren’t going up against what is fundamentally driving the other person. Instead, we can negotiate based on what we know the other person needs in order to thrive.

What it really all comes down to is knowing ourselves, understanding the other person, and deciding what we want for the relationship.  Those three things are essential to us as we navigate conflicts that inevitably arise.  They are key to you as well, to have success in any conflict situation.

February 7, 2017

A Clash of Perspectives? 

Man looking through someone else's glassesIn every single interaction we have every day, in and out of the workplace, there is always the unspoken factor of our perspective — and the perspective of others. We bring so much into our interactions. Obviously, this includes our mood of the moment and how well we are dealing with our existing stress level.

But there is so much more involved in entering into even the simplest of exchanges.  As a rule of thumb, we bring in the stories we tell ourselves about the other person. We bring our history of experiences with similar people or similar situations.

Our Perspective Includes

We also bring in our personal history of communication. That includes how we communicated in the homes where we were raised, especially around inquiry and conflict.  Were we allowed to question others’ statements and thoughts? Did we address conflict directly in our family, or was conflict swept under the rug and left unresolved?

And most certainly, we bring in both our personal style of communicating (e.g., fast or slow, people-focused or task-focused) and the values through which we filter our decisions.

That’s a lot of stuff, huh, when you consider how many people you interact with in a day, a week, a year?  What do you do with all of that?  You start with self-awareness.  Be clear about your own “baggage.”  When you understand what you are really bringing to the table, it becomes easier to recognize that we all have perspectives that color our communication.

May 10, 2016

Got Conflict? Yes Is a Good Answer! 

What does conflict mean for your business?  Is the news all bad?

Research showcased in CPP’s “Global Human Capital Report: Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive” tells us it can be really damaging:

  • More than a quarter of all U.S. employees (27%) have witnessed workplace conflict “morph into a personal attack.”
  • One in four employees say that they have become sick or have missed work due to conflict avoidance.
Cartoon with caption:" I take it this department has seen some conflict."Those statistics tell us that both avoiding conflict and allowing conflict to get out of hand impact productivity and the organizational culture. So organizations, and managers specifically, need to learn to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
One of the tools we use in employee engagement work is the Thomas-Kilman inventory of conflict modes, broadly referred to as TKI®. This tool assesses individuals’ abilities to navigate five conflict modes in terms of both assertiveness and cooperativeness:
  1. Avoiding (Lose-Lose)
  2. Accommodating (Win-Lose)
  3. Compromising (Win-Lose)
  4. Competing (Win-Lose)
  5. Collaborating (Win-Win)

The “winning” and “losing” relate to the level of satisfaction each party achieves through the conflict style. This means in resolving conflict, you need to understand what your goals are and whether and how much of your own satisfaction you are willing to negotiate.

Managers and employees who have strong collaboration skills and the ability to work toward mutual satisfaction to resolve conflict create effective teams and contribute to a positive organizational culture.

Interested in taking the TKI assessment to learn more about your conflict management styles? Email me and we’ll set it up.

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