Inherent within each conflict rests an opportunity for betterment, for evolution. The greater the conflict, the greater the invitation for a deeply personal and interpersonal transformation.
The more sincerely we consider conflict as a powerful opening toward transformation, the more likely we are to support a new, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of each person involved, their individual impact, and the actualization of the power that resides within the relationship. Here are four tools to help you resolve conflict by doing better, by thinking better.
1. Set the example, not the instruction
Lead yourself, influence others.
As the leader, it always starts with you! The strongest leaders understand that their greatest impact on their team stems from their ability to progressively and incrementally lead themselves. A MINDSHIFT Leader must establish an example to earn their team’s trust, in who they are, what they stand for, and how they consistently behave in accordance to their value structure.
Being the change you wish to see in others requires that your actions to speak for you. The leader that understands this is the type who can truly create transformation and close the gap between conflicting parties in the most effective and sustainable manner.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to consistently practicing this first tool is that you are more likely to prevent a build-up of tension within your team, which will decrease the likelihood of unnecessary conflict.
Ask yourself: What are three characteristics I would like my team to embody? What are three ways I can model this behavior, myself, this week?
2. Connection before Correction
Simply put, you cannot lead anyone that does not want to be led by you.
This is especially true when facing conflict. The degree to which your leadership will help shape your team’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is directly influenced by the degree to which they believe you are able to genuinely acknowledge their values and unmet needs. This is how a leader can connect meaningfully, and manage the stress created by the conflict well.
A major step toward making sure you are able to deeply connect to their value structure and needs is to consistently incorporate questions throughout your conversation. The more you can clarify their viewpoint the stronger the probability of building a bridge towards common ground.
The use of social connection is undoubtedly a leadership superpower which only increases in power the more challenging the conflict becomes.
Ask yourself: Identify a current challenge within your team. What are three ways you can create more connection with these team members to foster more understanding?
3. Micro-moments lead to Macro-changes
This MINDSHIFT tool is perhaps the most time- and cost-effective of them all.
Creating many small moments of connection and engagement throughout the work week can drastically improve work culture, happiness, sense of belonging and resolve conflict more quickly.
Each interaction literally takes seconds (ex. opening the door for a colleague, stopping the elevator door from closing, engaging in a handshake, or high-five as you walk by, etc), but have the potential of saving many hours of lost work and derailed relationships. An added benefit to placing a consistent emphasis on micro-moments is that when challenges do arise your colleagues will be more likely to trust you and your relationship.
Too often, focus is placed on big team events or end of year parties to foster relationships and a sense of comradery. These events can be a lot of fun, but don’t necessarily have a direct carry over to day-to-day morale, productivity, and profitability. Perhaps, the main reason for this is because there aren’t enough of these parties to continually expose the brain to the winning formula: many small moments of attachment and intimacy.
Ask yourself: What are three micro-moments you can cultivate daily?
4. Recover, don’t perfect
Leadership is often about pushing one’s own boundaries of comfort, and doing the same for others.
Since there is no such thing as a perfect person, or relationship, conflict will always be a part of the workplace. The key, therefore, is to learn how to recover and regain your center faster so you can spend more time in a solution-focused state of mind and resolve the conflict more effectively.
The more the leader places value in dealing with challenging situations, and not avoiding them, the more likely the relationships at work will remain cohesive and stable. There is a real freedom that comes with the security of being a part of a team that is able to speak about, work through, and resolve conflict in an open and respectful manner.
In fact, neglecting the power of recovery and placing more attention on trying to preserve “perfect” relationships only leads to suppressing emotions. This has dire consequences for everyone involved, including a decrease in memory, and an increase in everyone’s heart rate and blood pressure in the room.
Ask yourself: What are three ways you can create safer spaces for conflict within your team?
Next time you find yourself involved in conflict, remember that inherent within the challenge sits an invitation towards immense personal and interpersonal transformation. As a leader it’s your calling to resolve conflict in the most respectful and effective manner. Learning to incorporate the above tools can help you accomplish this by doing better, by thinking better.
Extra help! One of my favorite, and easier, behaviour modification exercises to create more effective micro-moments is called the “10/5 Way” coined by the brilliant, and funny, Positive Psychologist Shawn Achor. The idea is simple! When you are within 10 feet of a colleague make eye contact and smile. When you are within 5 feet of a colleague say “hello”.