‘I have never seen a workplace conflict that only impacts two people.’ This claim was made by my good friend Zandy Fell. Zandy is an expert in doing workplace conflict better.
‘Conflict creates tension that is contagious. We are animals and when another animals around us are tense, we pick up on the vibes. Without even meaning to, conflict involves people who are only bystanders. And then there are the people who get consciously roped in…’
Zandy was asked to mediate between two Sales Directors and a Marketing Director, but their relationship wasn’t the real issue. The CEO had not clarified if Sales was leading Marketing, or if Marketing was taking the lead. Conflict contamination had resulted in toxic relationships between the two teams, so no one was getting along. The two teams come to meetings as a block, argue as a block, defend as a block… And the resolution must start with the CEO setting clear direction.
Here is Zandy’s advice for Fearless Leaders who want to do conflict better:
- Embed an expectation that you will have ‘difficult conversations’. Own the responsibility to have timely, open and honest discussions, and hold people accountable for this as a KPI. The ability to have difficult conversations should be celebrated as an attribute and competency that leads to business success.
- Doing conflict well is not just a skill – it’s a mindset. A mindset of true diagnosis. What’s the broader context? What has come first? Get curious and take the time to find out what has really happened.
- Leaders and leadership teams are accountable for their workplace relationships. Workplace relationships are a strategic advantage. Recognise which relationships are valuable to you, and then reflect on the quality of these relationships, and invest the time and energy on those you value. When a relationship is not strong, don’t dismiss it as ‘I don’t get on with everyone.’ Instead, take responsibility for what you are creating.
As a leader you can be more than a ‘sounding board’. In supporting someone through conflict, the biggest gift you can give them is help to understand their contribution to the conflict, and empower them to be accountable for that.
PS: There are 3 weeks until the end of this financial year. What leadership development did you plan for FY18 that hasn’t happened yet? Capitalise on your remaining development budget and organise leadership or team development now!
The three key ways I support my clients in developing Fearless Leadership are:
Fearless Leadership and Fearless Teams – Creates the conditions for organisational success by leveraging the professional expertise and combined wisdom of your team..
Leading Change that Sticks – Supports leaders and teams to lead and embed sustainable change.
Leaders who Ask – Trains leaders to include coaching conversations and questions as part of their leadership toolkit to build engagement, accountability, productivity and culture.
Get in touch with Melinda Pitts, my Relationship Manager, on 0403 214 443 or firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about how I can help you.