July 24, 2019

5 Effective Leadership Skills You Can Use to Quickly Settle a Dispute at Work

resolve disputeAs a leader, there will come a time in your career when you have to sit down with two or more people and do your best to help settle a disagreement, dispute or conflict. 

While this is not the activity most leaders enjoy, it is a part of the job, and the best approach is a Childrens Party that engages the kids.

Striking while the iron is hot is critical in helping to settle a dispute.  Many leaders just ignore conflict on their team, thinking that time will heal all wounds.  I have observed the opposite to be true.  If two or more people on your team are in the middle of a disagreement, negative emotions will build, and team chemistry can fall apart.

So, here is what I suggest trying the next time you are settling a dispute.  You will be using these 5 leadership skills:

1.  Addressing conflict swiftly.

2.  The art of using effective dialogue.

3.  Mediation.

4.  Holding people accountable.

5.  Taking action.

For this post, I am going to use the names John and Sue.  Let’s say John and Sue have had a disagreement, are avoiding each other and starting to gossip about the situation to other team members.  It is time to call them both in, and start a dialogue:

Step 1:  Establish the ground rules.  Allow each person a chance to vent for about 2-3 minutes about what is going on.   Then, state firmly but calmly “We are now going to shift into a conversation about what each of you want for yourself, what you want for each other, what you want for the team and what steps you are going to take to get there.

Step 2:  Ask John the following questions:

  1. What do you want for yourself?
  2. What do you want for Sue?
  3. What do you want for your relationship?
  4. What do you want for your team?
  5. What steps will you take, starting today, to
  • Get what you want
  • Help Sue get what he wants
  • Get what you want for the relationship
  • Help the team get the results they need

Step 3:  Ask Sue the following questions:

  1. What do you want for yourself?
  2. What do you want for John?
  3. What do you want for your relationship?
  4. What do you want for your team?
  5. What steps will you take, starting today, to
  • Get what you want
  • Help John get what he wants
  • Get what you want for the relationship
  • Help the team get the results they need

Step 4:  State the accountability system by saying this.  “I am going to be observing your interactions, and I would like to follow up on _____________ date.  State a date that is no later than two weeks into the future.  If at this time, you have not resolved your issues with each other, we are going to have another conversation to see where we go from here.  While I encourage open debate, I have to get my team on the same page, moving in the same direction, so I will be following up in two weeks.

Step 5:  Take action.  If Sue and John cannot come to an agreement, and if they cannot work together and continue to cause tension in the team chemistry, it is time to make changes…either moving them onto different teams or taking steps to determine if Sue and John are really a good fit for your company.  If they “agree to disagree” and still work together, you may continue to see this issue surface, even if you move them to another team or department.

If you or a team member is having difficulty settling a dispute, contact me today for a complimentary consultation to see if I may be able to help you with this challenge.

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3 Tools to Help You Master the Art of Conflict Resolution

"Picture of two people going in conflict resolution going in different directions"

Are you going in different directions and avoiding the elephant in the room?

In the last 11 years of working with conflict resolution and leadership coaching for executives and their teams, I have never met a group of people that did not have some type of conflict going on inside their company.

Conflict Resolution is Tough.

Conflict  is inevitable and to conflict resolution is not an easy task.  As a matter of fact, I believe conflict resolution is getting tougher, but resolving conflict is what can actually help us get to the truth of a situation, can be a stimulus for creativity and can make teams stronger…but only if handled correctly.

Today, I want to leave you with 3 very quick tools which can help you with conflict resolution (believe me…the fear of conflict rests with most people…no one likes conflict and most people don’t want to address it).

Conflict Resolution Tips:

1.  Understand why the conflict exists in the first place.  The reasons may include:

  • A person  feels misunderstood
  • Something was said that was hurtful, and a person is harboring a grudge
  • Two or more people have different values and/or beliefs about an issue
  • A person is just unhappy and always wants to “stir the pot”
  • Needs are not being met
  • Differing communication styles (there are four basic communication styles:  Dominance, Inspirational, Conscientious and Supportive) and these styles can butt heads constantly if not recognized
  • Different career and life goals
  • Low company morale
  • People are simply going in very opposite directions in life
  • Skewed perceptions
  • A “don’t ask, don’t complain, don’t open your mouth” policy
  • Confusion about an issue
  • Your company has a “pecking order” and everyone knows it
  • Playing favorites

Once you understand the root of the conflict, you can then begin to address it on an individual basis.

2.  Let your team know that you are going to be meeting with everyone individually for a discussion on how to make your team stronger. Sit down one on one with each team member and say something like this:

“John…you know, I have noticed that our team seems to keep butting heads on a lot of issues and we seem to get nowhere.  We leave meetings angry and without any clear direction, and I am here to take responsibility for this constant state of conflict we are living with.  While I encourage conflict and debate, it seems that we are ending up with a lot of hurt feelings and people are starting to shut down.  I want to talk to you about how you view conflict resolution and see where you stand or how you are feeling about all.  Tell me a bit about your needs, goals and desires.  I would like to know what you feel is working for you and about anything you feel you need that you are not getting on the team.”  (You are digging here to find out what may be the hot spot for this person).

As you talk with each team member, make a few notes.  Your goal here is to look for a repeating pattern of a need not being met, skewed perceptions, differing personality styles or values which are not aligned.

3.  Once you have completed each one on one private conversation, meet with your team to discuss your view of the most common thread which came out of your individual conversations.  WITH YOUR TEAM, come up with a solution on how to go about the conflict resolution process using just one issue which will have the biggest impact on improving the team conflict.  This may be a plan to address the emotional intelligence of the team or communication styles.   I do want to repeat…you don’t want to stop conflict and debate altogether…they will help your team be more creative and growth oriented.   You do, however, want to improve any type of conflict which may be stopping your team from moving forward.

After the above three steps, where do you go with conflict resolution?

After step 3, it may be important for your team to engage in some type of team leadership coaching to work on moving the action forward.  If  conflict resolution something your team is interested in pursuing, please feel free to contact me for more information.