Conflict is a natural part of team growth and facilitates learning and change. The right amount of conflict, when resolved, can bring a team together. However, despite its many benefits, it still acts as a hindrance if it gets out of control. Team Leader from Flight Centre Travel Group’s employee financial planning division, Moneywise, Michelle McGuffog, reveals how she puts a positive spin on conflict in her team.
Conflicts are unavoidable in the workplace. Depending on how they’re managed, they can either create breakthroughs for teams or disrupt their momentum. This responsibility falls on the shoulder of the leader. If a team is a family, then the leader is the parent. They are responsible for maintaining the team’s culture and unity.
Team conflict can lead to a vicious downward spiral if neglected. Tensions can fester, the trust between different individuals can break down, and team performance can ultimately erode as people become less engaged.
Some leaders are inclined to avoid team conflict but at Flight Centre, we believe it can be healthy when you are brainstorming new ideas or evaluating the status quo. It brings different ideas to the table and helps the team avoid ‘groupthink’.
Leaders can ensure they’re impartial during conflict by listening to each person’s point of view, not passing judgement on them, and then finding common ground between parties.
While most people associate communication skills with speaking, listening is just as important to minimise conflict and help build trust. People sometimes talk at or over people when they are eager to share their own ideas. In a situation involving conflict, a leader should always seek to understand where other people are coming from first before putting their own ideas forward.
The best way to coach others to communicate better is to observe situations and then discuss it straight away while it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.
I often ask people three questions:
I then observe their responses to assess their level of self-awareness. Next, I’ll share my answers to the same questions based on my observations. During this process, it’s important to keep things factual and not personal. I’ll either confirm what they say or suggest another point of view.
Many people in leadership positions – especially women – suffer from fears of being viewed as ‘bossy’ when asserting their opinion. Again, it comes back to listening and communicating clearly. Make sure you consider other people’s point of view carefully. If you disagree, explain why you disagree and why you think your idea will work better. It’s all in the delivery.
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