This is one of my least favorite things to do as a leader.
Nobody likes conflict.
It’s uncomfortable and it takes up a lot of energy.
But when you manage teams, conflict will eventually happen and it’s your job to deal with it.
I’d like to share my approach.
Let’s say you have Luke and Serena who are fighting because they cannot agree on how to complete a task or project. They have talked several times, but the issue has escalated and now they just hate each other.
As a leader, it’s time for you to step in.
The first thing is to define your role in this conflict. You’re going to be acting as the moderator, the referee, the facilitator. Your job is to help both parties find a common ground.
And your tool is going to be dialogue.
Before I meet with them, I like to take a moment and ask myself: How am I feeling today? This conversation is probably going to be tough and may trigger my ego. If I’m upset, I may affect the outcome negatively. So, I make sure to get myself together before the meeting if needed.
During the meeting, you need to be extremely conscious of the language you use, what you say and how you say it so that the meeting doesn’t turn into a fight.
Ask indirect questions
(As someone born and raised in Spain we can often be too direct. Being an indirect communicator is something I learned from my British friends. They are excellent at it!)
- Instead of: Why don’t you like Serena’s idea?
- I can say: How do you think Serena’s approach could impact our customers?
Other questions I could ask are:
- Why do you think Luke wants to tackle the task this way?
- What do you think would be the most efficient way to do this?
- Which plan would allow us to provide a better experience to our customers?
- How do you think we should do this?
The idea is to help both see each other’s perspectives to find a common ground.
Eventually we want to help them see that they are trying to do the same thing: to help the customer (or whatever it is in your case).
Again, avoid being direct at all costs. The reason is simple: direct questions or statements can trigger people’s egos, making them defensive.
Don’t take sides
Even if you see that Luke’s idea is better, you must remain neutral.
Show them that you care and that they can trust you. Listen and acknowledge what they say.
- Thank you for sharing that, it is indeed very important.
- I appreciate the great work you both have done.
- You mentioned that… did I understand correctly?
In return, they will listen and trust you.
The outcome should not end up with a winner and a loser. They both need to win.
As adults, we need to find a common ground, and it’s your job as a leader to make that happen.