Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Whether it’s seeking improvements or managing shifting priorities, leaders invest significant time resolving conflicts. Efficiently managing differences, be they with peers or within teams, to arrive at a shared commitment, proceeds through 3 phases that require a mix of empathy, discovery and tenacity.

1.      Leverage your empathy to change your mindset.  Our tendency, particularly with those we lead, is to manage these discussions with the mindset that we’re going to convince the other party that our perspective is better. It’s a position grounded in our experience as leaders, we believe that we already know the answer, so it can be challenging to consider alternatives. Those who have a different view sense this arrogance, get defensive and then emotional. Resolution occurs more quickly when we approach these conversations with a willingness to learn why the difference exists.

2.      Discover the origins of the opposing perspectives. Begin this diagnostic phase by deferring to the other party, asking them to help you better understand their view by sharing their goal, why it’s important to them, and what they need from you; when it’s your turn, share your position by answering the same 3 questions. Then, seek to agree on the current reality and on the commonality within the two goals, while acknowledging diversity in how they can be achieved. This simple tactic lowers the temperature in the room, accelerating the shift from emotional expressions, driven by the need to defend or be heard, to the sharing of logical arguments.

3.      Be tenacious in finding a resolution. With agreement on the current reality, and greater clarity regarding the goals, be tenacious in pursuit of resolution. Envision a shared, successful outcome. Then, identify the gaps between the conflicting goals and this vision. Recalling the motives for the differing perspectives and what is needed from each party, agree on the actions required to close each gap and achieve the shared vision. Sequentially resolving each gap builds momentum towards shared commitment.

This three-phase process enables the respectful, collaborative and efficient exploration of barriers and potential solutions necessary to successfully secure resolution.

How do you facilitate the productive conflict dialogue
necessary to achieve resolution?