After years of working as a mediator, consultant, and organizational leader, I now understand that there are at least six crucial realizations for leaders to successfully navigate organizational conflict.
I will describe six critical things to remember, and then I’ll summarize with the most important thing you can do to lead through conflict.
Six Crucial Realizations
The most important thing
I believe that the most important thing any leader can do to help themselves and others through conflict is to listen with curiosity.
In conflict, people begin to perceive the actions of other people through negative lenses. This leads to negative judgments about the character of other people. Previously innocuous behaviour, like the lack of a greeting in the morning, may now get interpreted as someone being stand-offish or uncaring. Instead of someone describing behaviour in a neutral way, like “John passed me in the hallway without saying good morning,” they now say something like “John is so stand-offish.”
Our job as leaders is both to hear the tension filled stories of others and acknowledge the tension or pain they may be experiencing, and then to move them towards curiosity.
We cannot move someone towards curiosity (or openness) without first listening. Once we have listened, we can then begin helping people to consider other alternatives to explain the offending behaviour (aside from a character problem).
When people move towards curiosity, they move towards more openness to dialogue. When they move towards more openness and dialogue, they can begin to seriously consider how the conflict may be resolved.
If you need assistance
If you are feeling stuck as a leader or if you think the situation is beyond your skill level, don’t be afraid to reach out to another leader or a mediator for assistance. This shows that you care and that you want to help your people. Or look for training such as this seminar I will lead in November.
We all benefit from the skillful perspective and assistance of others. Even mediators utilize other mediators for their conflict. I have – and it helped.
I invite your comments as to other critical realizations or skills to add to this list. Please comment below.
Director, ACHIEVE Training Centre
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