For many managers leading a team is a rewarding enjoyable job, where team members thrive, where targets are exceeded, and the team is greater than the sum of its parts. But for others, this situation is the dream rather than the reality. They are managing disengaged, distressed and dysfunctional teams who are performing poorly, have a high turnover rate of team members, and could be affecting how their business performs.
If this sounds familiar and you are struggling to get your team to work positively together due to conflicts disagreements and quarrels, you can rest assured you are not on your own. Managing conflict within a team is not easy, and if you have not had to deal with conflict before, you may be feeling overwhelmed with how to resolve the issues without making the situation worse.
Here at TCM we believe that equipping Managers and Team Leaders with the skills to manage conflict effectively helps to prevent situations spiralling out of control where formal processes and at worst case, court seems to be the only options available.
We must also remember that not all conflict is negative. Positive conflict allows team members to be innovative, have ownership and reduce the effects of conformity and groupthink. Managers who are well practiced in managing conflict will have the confidence, the competence and the courage to ensure that conflict is managed effectively and aligned with a company’s values, morals, principles and brand identity.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand you can wave to get your team to work together instantly, but there are skills you can adopt as a manager which will help create the right environment and space for your team to start making changes for the better.
Listen – actively
Active listening allows your people to feel heard and to feel valued. It encourages them to open up and share their thoughts, feelings and needs. You can demonstrate you are listening through summarising, validating and reflection; giving value to what people are saying. Listening is a core part of effective communications. It will build trust within your team, helping to establish rapport and understand people’s points of views. As we say at TCM, good conflict management always begins by giving people a jolly good listening to.
Show some empathy
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own feelings, as well as others. You will be able to show empathy, be self-aware and be able to read a room; the emotions and body language of those involved. You will be able to discuss with your team as a group and individually their needs and goals. Using social and emotional intelligence you will create a compassionate, person-centred environment which values diversity and which recognises each team members strengths.
People are not mind readers
Being a mind reader would be a useful skill to have but sadly it is not one that we are equipped with. People can’t guess what you are thinking and vice versa. When assumptions are made about people’s thoughts, feelings or intentions, it can lead to disastrous outcomes. Instead of letting people second guess, be willing to articulate clearly what you are thinking and feeling and your intentions. Being genuine and authentic will build trust and respect within your team.
Seek Win-Win outcomes
Conflict in a team can be a zero-sum game, creating many losers and very few winners. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Adopting a win-win approach allows managers to reframe conflict from negative and destructive to positive and constructive. It means that any agreements made are beneficial and acceptable to everyone involved. You can work towards a win-win outcome by understanding people’s needs, goals and aspirations, therefore earning people’s respect and trust. The more that you understand peoples underlying needs, the more opportunities will be created for consensus and convergence. Negotiators call this the ZOPA – the Zone of Possible Agreement. By focusing on the ZOPA, you will ensure that any agreement or plan delivers positive and lasting results for the entire team, not just the few.
Acting collaboratively will allow you and your team to move the situation on. Part of this process is facilitating a safe space where people can talk open and honestly without feeling judged or undermined – where a diverse array of ideas can be aired and discussed. Collaboration does not mean that everyone sits in a room agreeing with each other – collaboration allows for tough discussions to be had in way that is about seeking lasting and positive outcomes. A collaborative resolution process will enable your team to establish understanding, learning and insights about themselves as a group and individually.
If you’d like to find out more about managing conflict, we would recommend these books for further reading: