As featured in Management Today, 27 July 2012 – click for original article
Making sure tensions do not spill over when conflicts arise in your organisation is essential – the alternative is getting bogged down and hampering progress.
Don’t take it personally. A disagreement may be about the situation, idiosyncratic language used or a difference in vision – so don’t make it about you. Knowing this can make it a lot easier to resolve difficulties. It is rumoured that Bill Perez, a former CEO of Nike, had a management style incompatible with the organisation’s culture. He found it hard to deal with the feedback he received from the board, believing he should have been credited for his successes. He left within a year of starting.
Start from the middle ground. It is a lot easier to get agreement on the points you are closest on and then work towards finding solutions on what you don’t agree on, than to just focus on the differences from the outset. It’s always easy to be wise after the event but when the worst happens it is a lot easier to find a way out of an impasse if you have thought about how to resolve differences in advance of the event.
Know your feelings and don’t turn into a pressure cooker. If you feel stressed in your dealings with other board members try to understand why (frustration? anger? fear? etc.). It can help you manage the situation a lot better and to make choices that are not just an emotional reflex.
If possible, take the lead. That doesn’t mean storm in without listening. On the contrary it means start the dialogue and keep listening, this can be key to knowing where the building blocks are that may help you construct an agreement.
You don’t have to go it alone! There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it – and there is more out there than you might think – from coaching to process design to neutral intervention. And in that sense conflict can be an ‘added value’ tool.