Friday, July 14, 2017

Candid Conversations

I am often asked for advice on how to manage conflict in the work place. No one likes conflict and managing difficult situations not only takes a great deal of time and energy but it diverts focus away from what is really important—fulfilling the mission of your organization.

Before I share with folks my thoughts on managing conflict, I always like to offer advice on how to positively work with team members in order to create an environment built on mutual trust and respect where conflict is the exception not the norm.

To get the best out of your team, you must work to build team members up rather than break them down. You lead through inspiration and empowerment.  By encouraging their work, celebrating their successes, coaching them to do more, rewarding their accomplishments and tweaking the small things that are not working, you build a sense of trust and commitment. And at the end of the day, you have a team that works as a unit, has everyone’s back, will follow you anywhere and is fairly conflict free.

There are times, however, when conflicts arise that must be tackled. For me, there is no deep wisdom when it comes to dealing with a sticky situation. My advice is simple: address the problem head on and with honesty. There is no benefit to letting problems fester or sidestepping the truth when managing conflict in the workplace. One, nothing good ever comes from avoiding a problem; and two, honesty is always the best policy.

Whether it is managing a conflict between two team members or dealing with an outside vendor or client, getting to the root of the problem and developing an effective solution is the only real path to success. Even if your intentions are well-meaning and you think you are sparing feelings, you are not doing anyone any favors. By being upfront you are actually saying, “I respect you enough to tell you the truth. Let’s resolve this issue and move forward.”

Unfortunately, there are times when managing a difficult situation is not possible. My friend Jack Welch gave me some great advice, “when it’s time, it’s time.” After you have given people the opportunity to grow and flourish in the organization and do their best and it’s still not working, then it’s time to let them go. Be as honest and open as you can with your team about what was not working. If you are leading your team effectively, this will not be an issue.

Whether you are leading a team or managing conflict, it all comes down to fostering an honest work environment that inspires trust, respect and communication amongst all members of the organization. By leading and managing with straight-forward positive talk, you can handle conflicts as they arise and focus your time on the work at hand.

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