As a Leader How Do You Deal With Conflict?

by | Oct 11, 2023

My pastor always says: “Where there are people, there are problems.” He is spot on! And…where there are people, conflict is inevitable.

The absence of conflict isn’t where peace comes from…it comes from the confidence and ability to navigate conflict effectively.

It is important for us as leaders to recognize that conflict is an inevitable part of life and work, and being willing and able to proactively work through the tension in a helpful way is essential in leadership.

Many leaders deal with conflict in one of two unhelpful ways:

  1. We over-respond and overreact to the conflict.
  2. We ignore, deny and avoid the conflict.

Neither extreme is healthy.

Here’s a common scenario:

A team is being passive-aggressive with one another. They don’t get along well. They don’t trust each other. They’re just not gelling. And it seems like every little thing that happens is just another opportunity for breakdown.

So you think…I’ll take my team on an outing or a retreat…maybe it’s a ropes course or an escape room. Going on a team retreat, however, doesn’t solve the break in teamwork if vital conversations don’t happen.

If you don’t have conversations about where things are breaking down—honest, sometimes awkward, sticky or uncomfortable conversations—a team outing is not going to fix anything.

It’s much like getting a scrape on your arm. It may be moderately deep, but you don’t bother cleaning it—you just put a band-aid on it. You go on about your day and think all is well.

But, over time, the scrape doesn’t get better. It ends up getting infected. Putting a different or bigger band-aid on it won’t make it any better.

Coach leaders know how to leverage conflict as an opportunity for team building and growth.

How do they do this?

  1. START…WITH THE WHO—in a group setting, discover and discuss the natural wiring, values, and beliefs of each team member. When each team member becomes more SELF-AWARE and OTHERS-AWARE, they will see their teammates in a new light. They’ll see things they have in common, as well as learn where many of the conflicts and triggers may be coming from.
  2. ALIGN…ON THE WHAT—identify what the team is working toward…what are the key goals and priorities? Does each team member have clarity around how their role contributes to the goals and correlates to the bigger picture?
  3. FINISH…WITH THE HOW—with the knowledge of the who and agreement on the what, collectively determine the how. This is often where the really sticky conversations occur. This is where barriers to success in both the relationships and results are vetted out, and where ‘who we are’ as we ‘work toward the what’ truly gets defined.

It takes more energy, time, stress, and frustration to get to the end result (the what) if you’re having to constantly work around an unaddressed conflict (problems with the ‘who’ or the ‘how’). Leaders who invest their time in curing the conflict in their organizations reap the benefits of more efficiency and improved business results.

If you’re interested in learning how effective your leadership team is, take our free Leadership Dream Team Assessment here:

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