Dissecting Conflicts to Boost Productivity
The term conflict has had a lot of negative connotations. When you think of the word conflict, what comes to your mind first? Do you have images running that present a tough fiasco with people you work with or there is nobody listening to you when you are trying to make sense?
Conflicts are natural occurrences among human beings – both in social life and at work. However, the effects of conflicts – when they go unresolved, can be huge and may turn out costly for organizations – by casting a shadow on the business growth. Even though we understand the effects, we may still fail to resolve conflicts. Why?
Humans show a wide variety in terms of opinions, values and hence, interpretation and response towards conflicts. Hence, conflicts cannot be seen from a single perspective – if a real solution has to come out of the.
Workplace conflicts must be looked through a different lens – where the tug of war results into comfortable resolutions that are aligned with the ultimate goals of the organization. It is the leadership that creates all the difference – converting conflicts into opportunities for growth. How?
Understanding Productive Conflict
Conflicts that result into brilliant consensual solutions are identified as “Productive Conflicts”. They differ from destructive conflicts because here, the leaders are quite determined to resolve the issues by looking at reconciliations and find themselves adaptable to the new approaches. Such leaders are solution-oriented and know how to differentiate between problems and behaviours. Conflicts that induce fears of confrontation, finger-pointing, discords and destruction cause Managers and employees to avoid them. However, in leadership excellence, conflict resolution simply pertains to first, admitting that there is conflict and second, taking action. Keeping quiet or being a bystander or brooding over, is a No No.
A Leader’s View Point on Productive Conflict Management
I recently had the privilege to conduct an interview with a popular business leader from the Indian subcontinent, Vikas Khanchandani, CEO, Republic TV. The interview turned out more of an idea exchange where Vikas presented some intriguing insights and viewpoints on the subject — how leaders actually need to re-look at conflicts and convert them:
“The management teams across organizations are mostly aligned to the organisational goals and objectives. Hence, they are most found in the functional roles, leading their respective verticals, departments or regions. So, any conflicts at this level, whether erupting out of the business growth need or emerging from differing opinions may turn out challenging but not always unhealthy. The conflict, he states, might often be stemming from difference in views or perspectives. This conflict can be addressed through appropriate communication channels. Open and free discussions around the topic can yield consensus, ultimately. So, for leaders, this resolution entails hearing out the perspectives of the team, soaking them and analysing them vis-a-vis their own views or thoughts. If everyone is committed towards solving the conflict, the process would indeed yield a better strategy, implementation and even relationship.”
On the importance of conflict to achieve higher performance, he says, “As far as the conflict is not interpersonal, it is a good sign. It indicates that the teams are involved in active thinking with an alignment to their business goals. For any senior management team, collective thinking and reasoning can be highly useful for defining the strategy and execution roadmap for the business. It also helps the entire organisation to sync and stirs new ideas.”
His final give-away was, “Conflict can give rise to new opportunities, as well, thereby ensuring that organisations never stagnate.”
So, conflict is a sign of active thinking, and leaders must leverage it towards creating more opportunities for growth.
How to Convert Conflicts into Growth Opportunities
Leaders who strive to convert conflicts into solutions, focus sincerely at acquiring a complete understanding of the situation. They practice active listening, adaptability and impulse control as their core skills while addressing the conflicting parties. All of that corresponds to a higher Emotional Intelligence. So, there are several more steps entailing this proliferation of looking at conflicts through the lens of productivity and, making it a reality:
1. Understanding all stakeholders in the Conflict:
It is very important for you, as a leader, to understand the viewpoint of each of the conflicting parties. If you are one of them too, then this step will include a deep self-reflection too. You prepare a case for all the parties and try to connect the dots, so that the ideas converge instead of divulging.
2. Facilitating the environment of Change:
This step is about preparing and sensitizing the conflicting members towards the need to adapt to the changes. This is about flexibility. Oftentimes, conflicts arise when one side welcomes new ideas and the other side sticks to the conventional ones. Your job is to strike that balance. It is all about collaboration.
3. Defining the Goal Behind the Conflicts:
When the conflicts go dirty, the parties may even forget the actual objective that they have been fighting for. Because, in that moment of heat, they end up focusing more on winning over the other side—without evaluating if their victory still aligns with the real objective of the conflict.
4. Empathising with Everyone Involved:
This is about assuring the people involved that their emotions are being recognised and they hold a certain degree of value after having voiced their opinions. You need to give them a patient hearing – where you listen to every word without any distractions.
5. Asking the right questions:
This step works closely with the step of defining conflict goals. An effective leader would start by asking questions such as – what solutions have you tried already? How well have you communicated your constraints and possible consequences of the specific decision?
Conflicts are inevitable at a workplace. However, if not addressed timely, they can shape into disasters – taking into their fold the entire organization’s sustainability. Leaders are expected to be the change agents – determined to identify and resolve the conflicts by converting them into opportunities. If an opinion does not yield a counter opinion – we would soon end up in the era of dictatorship. So, the entire change begins with one person and that is you!