December 18, 2014 2 Comments
Conflict in your group is natural and not necessarily bad when properly managed. You must channel conflict into productivity. Managed well, conflict leads to expanded information exchange, surfaced rationales, more options, and better group decisions that enable change. Managed poorly, conflict destroys. Properly managed, conflict leads to positive transformation. If left festering in the hallways, conflict leads to chaos.
Conflict provides one of the best reasons for justifying the time and expense of a face-to-face meeting because it cannot be properly resolved with mail, attachments, and messaging. Society places negative values on conflict at home and at school. We are not taught collaborative problem solving skills. We will look at the likely external sources of conflict, barriers you will encounter, and responses that are proven effective.
Recognize that conflict exists particularly when you sense resistance from the group. If your intuition tells you that something is not right, you would be wise to listen to the symptoms:
- Challenges and attacks
- Silence and withdrawal
- Emergence of people with problems
- Tardiness and punctuality problems
- Sabotage attempts at the project, process, or facilitator
Sources of Conflict
Primary sources of conflict in a typical workshop include the following, but keep in mind that the two biggest predictors are tenure (ie, how long somebody has been around) and when their jobs, titles, or reporting situation is at risk or being changed:
- Competition—feeling out of control or the need to control
- Fears—participant fears as well as facilitator fears
- Habits—used to disagreeing or arguing, cultural
- Listening filters—age, background
- Misinformation—rumors, especially with change
- Participants’ problems—out of control, unable to excel or bond
- Poorly defined objectives—misunderstanding of expectations
- Semantics—understanding of words and intent
- Situations—reengineering, reorganizations, automating jobs
- Thinking styles—vertical/ horizontal
- Ways participants view others—biases, prejudices
The following barriers inhibit your ability to manage conflict:
- Ability or willingness to listen—yours and theirs
- Fears—yours and theirs
- Group norms—culture such as “we don’t discuss that here”
- Image—inability to save face
- Lack of skill—a weak facilitator
- Learned responses—our past is hard to unlearn
- Time—consensus is seldom achieved quickly
- Vulnerability—real or perceived threats
How do you respond to manage conflict? To effectively facilitate a conflict situation, you must keep conflict constructive and . . .
- Understand anger—dealing with yours and theirs.
- Know how to communicate acceptance—to promote open communications.
- Understand consensus—it is not compromise.
- Prepare properly—know if it is coming.
- Build a tool kit (see FAST Facilitative Leadership Tools for immediate help and develop a hip pocket set of tools in preparation for the unexpected)—build teams and diffuse problems.
- Challenge—when people raise objectives, discover the cause of the objection. With active listening and proper leadership, the objection can be converted into criterion. What causes the objection and what is the unit of measurement of the cause?
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.