Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leaders: 4 Steps to Dissolving Conflict in Your Life « Linked 2 Leadership

Leaders: 4 Steps to Dissolving Conflict in Your Life

Dissolving Conflict

When we have conflict in our lives, do we let it fester until it explodes, or do we take a more positive and proactive approach?

We all have conflict in many areas of our lives. The question then becomes how do we handle it most effectively.

Answer Me This

  • Are you agitated with someone today?
  • Do you have a boss or a colleague you believe is not championing your initiatives or ideas?
  • Do you have a colleague who is an idiot?
  • Do you feel irritation when your expectations go unmet?

Two Ways to Handle It

Human beings typically address these conflicts in one of two ways.

1) Some people brashly address conflict through intimidation that leaves others feeling interrogated and bullied.

This approach leaves us with a no-win situation. Trust is broken, and relationships get damaged.

2) Other people simply avoid confrontation.

This approach comes with a high cost of mounting frustration. Avoidance tears down trust too. Trust isn't damaged all at once, but after a series of disappointments trust is chipped away. Frustration builds until we deteriorate into a demanding, angry, and unreasonable person that we do not want to be.

The High Personal Cost

These two approaches to conflict exact a very high personal cost.

  • We suffer from stress and negative attitudes.
  • We become unable to bring our best selves to any situation, even those not directly related to the stressful situation
  • We begin to disengage
  • We start to feel discouraged and dis-empowered
  • We severely limit our effectiveness
  • We no longer control our own destiny

Disengaged at Work

This disengaged attitude take a tremendous toll on our workplace and our economy.

Gallup reports that a full 70% of people at work are disengaged.

When people become disengaged, productivity plummets – taking revenue and profits with it. The annual cost of conflict in the work place amounts to billions of lost dollars that are never recaptured.

What can we do? Is there another approach we could use to dissolve conflict in a positive and proactive way? The good news is: Yes! In fact, you can easily employ a more strategic approach to get immediate results.

4 Steps to Dissolving Conflict

Here are the four easy steps to help you dissolve conflict. This works at home, at work, and most places in between.


First, think about the other person. Where do they add value? Where do they contribute to your products or services? Are they sometimes top performers but are simply inconsistent? Reflect on these positive things until you can identify at least one small way they add value to you and your team. Think about the long-term benefits to keeping them in your company.

Assume Innocence

Next, assume they are not manipulative or malicious. Assume they simply do not know what is expected of them. Maybe they do not even know how to articulate where they need help to successfully meet your expectations. Either way, focus on their being a great person and being a solid contributor.

Personal Responsibility

This next step will be the most difficult but is the most critical. Look for the role you played in allowing this conflict to fester.

  • Were you absolutely clear on your objectives and expectations from the beginning?
  • How did you ensure that these expectations were fully communicated, negotiated and finalized?
  • Did you put in enough checkpoints to guarantee success at each milestone?

Honest self assessment will always reveal a number of opportunities to take personal responsibility for any conflict.

Once you see your role in the conflict, you must shoulder the responsibility for not being clear. Take full responsibility for the breakdown and say to the other person, "I take full responsibility for this disappointing situation. I give you my word I will do whatever it takes to clean this up and get us both in a place where we can be successful."

Ask Questions

The last step in moving the situation forward is asking questions.

  • "What resources do you need?"
  • "How can I help remove this obstacle?"
  • "Do you feel confident that you understand what we are trying to achieve?"
  • "Do you feel you are the right person for this job?"

This four-step approach requires putting our ego in check. We also need to step back and reflect on our original vision, our expectations, and our plan. Once we are clear on our plan, we can build in more checkpoints – daily, weekly, or quarterly depending on your goals – to guarantee our colleagues will be successful.

Conflict will dissolve and your business will grow in quantum leaps. Guaranteed!

So what type of person have you become because of how you handle conflict? Does it bring out the worst in you? Or have you managed to allow it to bring out the best in you? What steps can you take today to begin to help dissolve, diffuse, and disintegrate unhealthy conflict at work? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Katharine Halpin is President at The Halpin Companies, Inc.
She is an expert in Authenticity, Alignment & Accountability
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Image Sources: dididado.org

Filed under: Conflict Management, Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Tagged: | , , , ,

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