Fear of conflict is one of the most prevalent issues that defines office and organisational culture. Any environment that depends on the collaboration of different parties to achieve common goals can be rife with disagreements. So, how do you manage conflict as a leader? Whether you are naturally endowed with the ability to connect with your team members or you are trained to manage team dynamics, establishing a feedback culture to aid the effective resolution of conflict in different situations will ensure faster progress and results.
Albeit disagreements are undesirable, they are not always bad. Robust conflict can foster creativity and inspire productivity. Focusing on this as an objective, builds skillful leadership and removes the ‘need’ to eliminate conflict. Encouraging robust conflict and debate entails identifying and bringing together your people for a common purpose. Effective conflict management is the key to ensuring that team members are focused and determined to steer the organisation in the right direction.
A critical component of conflict management is developing an environment in which the leader proactively welcomes feedback from their team, both positive and negative. The term ‘feedback’ often has negative connotations however this isn’t always the case. There are huge benefits to creating a feedback culture where teams and their leaders feel comfortable providing it. This can lead to stronger working relationships and cooperation between team members and their leaders, reduced tension and time wastage, an increase in productivity and growth in individuals, teams and the company. A feedback culture values the voices of all, and companies who foster this type of listening environment see higher levels of employee engagement, a reduction in attrition and financial performance improvements.
The most important tool for developing a feedback-rich culture is communication. As a leader, prioritise the removal of barriers to communication. Leaders need to identify the needs of all team members and encourage communication from everyone in a way that they are most comfortable with. Consider offering feedback training, facilitating the delivery of feedback via channels designed specifically for this purpose, and demonstrating methods for passing on feedback via appraisals and performance reviews, or better still embed a continuous culture of feedback so stuff that matters gets spoken about in a timely fashion and regularly.
Where input from diverse minds is concerned, an element of conflict is unavoidable. While they can be harmful when not managed properly, they can be useful for avoiding stagnation. All leaders want vibrant, highly functional teams, so their role is to empower their team members to voice their ideas and suggestions in a way that makes them feel as though they are of value.
If team members do not receive sufficient information about their performance, they do not know if they are on track to achieve their own or the company’s goals and do not know what impact they are having on the organisation. Without this knowledge they cannot feel as though they are in a position of much value, and this can lead to resentment and conflict. Those who are not given feedback tend to self-criticise or self-congratulate, not always accurately. Development of an accurate level of self-awareness is near impossible without feedback.
Quite simply, feedback is the most powerful tool leaders have to manage conflict effectively.
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