Conflict is Good
Some of the most common feedback we hear from leadership teams is, “we like each other and get along, but we don’t challenge each other”. These teams operate in silos and collaborate on low level, tactical projects, but not on the big, strategic work that benefits their companies most.
The reason is, they’re avoiding conflict. But conflict is normal. As long as you’re respectful, and coming from a place of care and positive intent, saying things that make people uncomfortable creates better dialogue and builds trusted relationships.
Creating space for difficult conversations is important
Conflict is hard because there are always winners and losers. One team bears the brunt of cost cutting for the benefit of the company’s strategic goals. Someone misses out on a promotion because another leader outshines him. A founder needs to relinquish control of the business as part of her succession plan.
But just because the issues are tough ones, doesn’t mean we should avoid talking about them. In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons to create space for the conversations. Because, as a leader, if you’re going to have the right strategy and move it forward with everyone engaged, you need to have the dialogue.
Managing yourself is the only thing you really have control over
Conflict is also hard because emotions get in the way. So start by going deeper within yourself. Consider your feelings and needs around the issue. Are you feeling disappointed? Frustrated? Scared? What do you want for your life? For your job? Your people? And then put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try to see the situation from their perspective – with compassion.
If people on your team are displaying frustration, disengagement, disappointment – things you don’t normally see from them – it’s a good sign you need to have an open conversation. When what you hear is challenging, rather than take it personally, treat it as data. Ask questions and listen from a place of curiosity and with a positive mindset. And if your energy levels are low or your emotions are rising, take yourself out of the conversation. Come back to it when you feel calm and your energy is stronger.
Being open to and addressing conflict well drives positive outcomes
The constant change, high emotions, and uncertainty of the pandemic has heightened conflict within organizations. And with hybrid work environments and remote teams, managing it successfully is that much more challenging. Approaching tough conversations with greater understanding and compassion will help make them more productive and rewarding for everyone involved.
Being open to and addressing conflict well drives positive outcomes. It leads to better collaboration, more resilient teams, and greater insights that help organizations move forward, stronger.
Conflict may be hard, but it’s critical for everyone’s success.