May 2013: Nip Conflict in the Bud

Business is nothing but a mass of relationships: people working with people.  And whenever that happens, conflict naturally arises.  Sometimes it’s based on a tangible disagreement about a strategy or approach.  Other times, it comes from a simple unresolved misunderstanding.

Working in an increasingly flat and diverse environment means that there are infinite opportunities for stylistic and cultural misunderstandings. A direct, cut-to-the chase communication style might be interpreted as attacking; a less direct style might be considered sneaky. One might assume that because a person behaves a certain way, it means they’re being intentionally difficult or that their intentions are less than honorable.

Left unaddressed, these types of assumptions can turn into full-blown conflicts that can erode trust, teamwork, and performance.  As a leader, it is crucial that you step up to these situations and expect your people to do the same.  Demonstrate courageous conversations about the behavior you’re observing – and its impact. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from.  By having the right real conversation, you can turn the misunderstanding into a moment of enlightenment that strengthens the relationship and enhances teamwork.