The Surprising Side Effect of Conflict

Below is an excerpt from my new coaching modules, The 24/7 Leader: Transforming Personal & Professional Life:

“I have good news!” I announced the first day of a leadership retreat. “You have conflict in your organization!”

Everyone laughed. They thought I was making a joke. I continued:

Innovation and future wealth come from resolving conflicts.

Think about it...innovation doesn’t happen when people think and experience the same thing. It happens when different ideas and experiences clash and expose problems.

“I don’t like the pollution created by your gas-guzzling car,” someone might say. “Well, I need a car to get around,” someone else might respond. That’s a conflict. It’s also an opportunity. How can people get where they need to go without hurting the environment? If you can create an answer to that problem, you’ll generate future wealth!

This is why inspiring leaders see conflict as a healthy sign of a team’s most important commodity—diversity.

Great leaders encourage debate and discussion to find the best solutions and create better outcomes.

When we stop playing the blame-game and drop our assumptions about someone else’s intentions—and instead ask questions and deeply listen, we’re really gathering all the puzzle pieces on the table. Once we’ve assembled the relevant information, it’s easier to figure out how to put the puzzle pieces together to solve the issue.

Improving conflict resolution skills empowers everyone on the team to deal with conflict before it escalates, so they can stay focused on solutions and sustain high-caliber collaboration.

In this video, I outline the 5 steps to resolving conflict:

Your Coaching Challenge:

Think of a conflict you are engaged in, and then take the situation through these steps for resolution:

Shift to asking a question instead of making a statement. This is also helpful if you don’t want the other person to experience your comments as criticism. Consider:

  • What does great look like to you at this point?
  • Would you share what you’ve already considered so I don’t suggest things you’ve already explored?
  • What would it take from your perspective to…(make a specific suggestion)?
  • Would you help me understand…?

Demonstrate you have been listening. Summarize what you’ve heard and what you now understand: “I have some suggestions, but before I share them, I want to confirm what I’ve heard. Did I get it all? What else would you want me to know?” When we show others we’re listening, they’re much more likely to listen in return.

Ask clearly for what you want going forward. Use the phrase, “What would need to exist for us to…” and describe the ideal outcomes. (Don’t make it sound like a bitter, snarky question!)

Confirm the other person is willing to do what you request. Use the phrase “Are we agreeing we will…” and insert the desired action.

Determine who owns the authority to make the decision when the other person doesn’t agree.

Make peace with the decision and move forward. Do the internal work to release resentment or bitterness if you didn’t “win.” Give others time to do this as well. Exhibiting grace and gravitas is an important part of executive presence.

Great leaders recognize conflict as a potential path to innovation and future wealth, and develop work cultures where everyone knows how to work through disagreement.

If you would like to take this deeper, join "The 24/7 Leader" coaching process and peer mastermind. To enroll, please contact us. For more support in your team's development, let's talk: 888-959-1188.