One of the skills of a leader is the ability to deal with conflict. This may be conflict within a team, conflict between the leader and a team member, or conflict between the leader and several team members!
Conflict is extremely likely in the early stages of a team's development when team members are establishing themselves, and during periods of change when team members may be experiencing uncertainty at being asked to adapt to new systems or procedures which they find initially difficult. Other occasions include when the team is operating in a high intensity environment - pressure to meet a deadline, dealing with a crisis situation or working to overcome a major setback.
When conflict does occur it needs to be dealt with head on. If it is left unchecked it risks undermining team cohesion and creating divisions. This can result in team members efforts becoming more aligned to 'self preservation' than towards the team goal. In the worst scenario it could cause irreparable damage to a team forcing individual members to leave, or in the worst case the disbandment of the entire team.
Conflict can happen at any time, come from areas least expected and erupt without warning. The effective leader needs to remain alert for signs of conflict and when conflicts arise employ the following tips:
- Defuse - If a conflict is getting heated, immediately defuse the frustration and anger.
- Focus - Focus on thinking on the problem/cause at hand.
- Pick - Pick the problem/cause apart using the salami-slicing tactic to deconstruct the conflict to all of its parts.
- Compromise - Pushing compromise allows all involved parties to walk away with something rather than nothing.
- Defer - Some conflicts just won’t get solved at this exact moment - move them out for another day.