You have observed a conflict between some of your team members and you realize you are the right person to help them reach a resolution. How do you KNOW this? You have carefully considered the situation and you are the PROJECT MANAGER.
Your next move is all abut the HOW, as-in HOW to move forward. The optimal scenario is that you are able to prepare in advance. Today we are going to look at the first few steps to take to help you prepare. Next time we will talk about some additional steps to consider and in the future we will discuss what to do when you do not have time to prepare for a conflict.
1) Consider the conflict and identify if you have a vested interest in the outcome. (Of course you have a vested interest in the outcome because you want the conflict to be resolved, right?) What I mean is do you already know what you want the solution to be? If you do—well, okay, that makes you human—be honest with yourself and about your bias because it’s going to impact how you facilitate. You also need to consider whether or not you need to tell
the other parties involved about your preference. If you are in a leadership position and you facilitate a resolution, then the parties work together and come up with some other solution. Are you going to override their decision? Because if you are, then you really don’t need much of a facilitator resolution session. What you need is to take charge and make a decision, like this:
“Okay, you know what, Mr. A and Mr. B, I see you’re having a
dispute or a conflict over this approach to doing the work and here’s
how it’s going to be done. Thank you.”
2) Do you need a formal conflict resolution session with an agenda and ground rules or can you call together a couple of people for a more informal discussion over coffee or lunch? It really depends on the parties involved and the volatility of the situation.
3) Let people know what is happening and why. If you go with an informal session, you still want to give people a heads up. You don’t want to do something like this:
Two people arrive at the same coffee shop at the same time and they didn’t know they were going to be together and then it turns out YOU orchestrated the whole thing.
Tell them in advance and identify your role in the situation and say, “I’d like us to sit down for coffee and discuss the conflict that seems to be in the air.”
In a formal situation, you advise people,”I am calling us together for a meeting to discuss this current issue that we are working on. And I am the facilitator.”
4) For your formal session, set ground rules. Ground rules could be:
Ø One person speaks at a time
Ø Nobody talks over the other person
Ø Speak for yourself
Ø No personal attacks
Ø Keep it about business
5) Establish or reestablish roles and responsibilities. A lot of conflicts are really ‘turf wars’ or perceptions that people are overstepping their bounds. Confirmation of roles and responsibilities can set the stage for quicker resolution and avoidance of future issues around these same areas.
6) Ask participants to honestly state what they want as an outcome. You cannot promise them their outcome will be achieved but you want it out on the table. What is their expectation? What do they want?
7) Remind everyone of the common goal. This might be the project goal or a reminder about making the customer happy or about the company goal. Remind everyone that we are all here working for a common good. Remind everyone of the damage that comes from unresolved conflict and of the benefit that comes to teams and individuals who
walk into conflict and come out the other end as stronger, better professionals.
Now you are ready to dig deeper into the conflict, so stay tuned because next time we will cover how to move forward and lead your team to proactively work together to find the right solution.