Are you good at conflict?

In most conflicts you see two roles quickly appear – the accuser and the victim. As we all know, conflicts aren’t a one-sided thing – so already there’s a problem when we take on either role.

But there’s a third role that can often appear – the rescuer. I’m not talking about a mediator. I’m talking about that person who just loves to jump in at the last minute to play savior. They rarely manage their own issues but have no trouble seeing everyone else’s.

All three of these roles, while common, don’t help conflict very much. And more importantly, they don’t do much to help a team develop good and healthy routines around conflict.

What I’ve found is that there are often a lot of perspectives on what the actual problem is. So there’s no victim, no one to blame. Because we haven’t even figured out what the actual issue (or source of the problem) is.

You’ve heard it said before, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Here’s what I’ve found helps:

  1. Create a shared sense of what the actual problem is.
  2. Create a clear articulation of the target solution.
  3. Instead of using the gap for blame, use it to energize and inspire people to make the needed changes to see movement and progress towards the expected result.
  4. Once there is agreement, walk out of the meeting joined and committed to the next steps.

This approach reduces those ineffective roles and instead places the focus on getting people on the same page (for both the problem and solution).

Amazon talks about conflict this way:

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

What I like about this is the acknowledgement and expectation to disagree and challenge one another.

When we value peace and comfort over the best ideas, we often stop having the best ideas.