One (Relatively) Easy Way Leaders Can Facilitate Healthy Resolution of Conflict
“If two people in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” – William Wrigley, founder of the WM. Wrigley Jr. Company
Teams experience conflict every day, and when it is resolved constructively, it fuels discovery and accomplishment. When it is left unresolved, tension stalls progress and keeps people from contributing fully. When leaders build awareness around personality styles and behaviours, they create an atmosphere of respect for differences that fosters trust. This can alleviate the natural tension and discord under which teams can struggle, reducing sources of conflict that stand in the way of performance.
Problem: Conflict Arises When People Approach The Same Situation From Different Points Of View
What if, for instance, you have someone on your team who is visionary, focused on the big picture, and someone who is attuned to systems and processes? The big-picture person might think the process person is bogging them down with too much unnecessary detail. Likewise, the process-oriented person might feel as though his teammate doesn’t appreciate the complex planning that is required to realize the vision. They can butt heads as a result.
Solution: Personality Assessments Provide Framework For Education, Understanding & Communication.
Awareness of personality styles takes it out of the personal. There is an assumption that every style has a shadow side, that a strength on one dimension is accompanied by a relative weakness on the other side. If, for instance, your strength is in applying logic and analysis in decisions, you may not be as strong on the interpersonal side, understanding the impact of your decisions on people. Whatever the case, having this language provides an opportunity for team members to talk about their approach, including their challenges, in a neutral way. It’s an opportunity to be vulnerable and safe.
Is It Really That Easy?
Yes and No. Here’s an outline of the process:
- Hold a half-day session and discuss personality, safely, together.
Team members each take the assessment online in advance of the session. At the session, the facilitator explains the theory and participants self assess their style based on this. This helps them to integrate the concepts. After they receive their results, each member of the team is required to read out a one page descriptor of their style including key characteristics, strengths and challenges to the group. It’s important that this be done openly in the team, in the spirit of openness and trust. Humour is an important element in these sessions which include interactive exercises to raise awareness of different styles in a playful way.
- Explore a typical work challenge and how members will work together and communicate in a way that honours who they are.
The workshop would culminate with small group discussions to generate ideas about how this awareness could be used to work together more effectively on real work projects. Exercises like this help make the new information real and integrate it into a work context. Answering the question “How will we use this information to work together more effectively?” is the goal.
- It’s Not A One-Time Conversation
Reinforce, remind, keep the conversation open. The best leaders develop ways of integrating learning over time so team members don’t forget or “file away” these insights. For example, within a month after the workshop, the leader could hold a follow-up session, possibly an hour of a team meeting to generate discussion of how the team has used their awareness of personality styles to help with challenges and how they have brought their learning to bear in the work context.