To secure a team’s commitment to a direction, decision or action, it may be necessary for a leader to resolve differing opinions. This is accomplished by striving to get all opinions on the table, and then employing empathy, discovery and tenacity to move towards a resolution.
1. Leveraging empathy. Leaders who begin a conflict dialogue by empathetically listening to the differing perspectives, seeking to discover why the differences exist, know that this process accelerates resolution while enabling the various stakeholders to learn from the experience. It may be tempting to short circuit the discussion and save time by directing the dialogue towards the outcome your experience dictates, but doing so compromises the chance to gain insight about the motivations behind each differing position.
2. Discovering the why. Initial position statements from stakeholders typically include a superficial explanation of why their stated view is important to them. During this diagnostic phase of the dialogue, leaders probe the stated motivation to discover the true “why” driving each position. Once the initial motivation (why their opinion is important) is stated, it’s productive to continue asking “why” until this true motivation emerges. This discovery helps shape agreement on the current reality, and on the commonalities shared by the opposing perspectives, while clarifying and acknowledging the differences that still exist.
3. Being tenacious. Resolving these differences is the focus for the final portion of the dialogue. An unresolved conflict inhibits commitment, so being tenacious about resolving differences at this time is vital. Ask all stakeholders to envision and describe a shared outcome for the issue, and what is needed from all stakeholders to achieve this vision. Any differences in the described outcomes are addressed by the leader to arrive at the shared outcome agreed by all. With the varying motives and stated needs on the table, the leader asks each stakeholder group to propose actions necessary to move towards the shared outcome. More commonalities will emerge, enabling each group to sequentially resolve the few final obstacles to resolution.
This three-step process supports the respectful, collaborative and efficient exploration of commonalities, barriers and potential solutions necessary to efficiently secure resolution that drives commitment. And it’s a learning experience that can help a team resolve future differences among themselves.
How do you resolve conflicts to achieve commitment?