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Confrontation, conflict, argument, disagreement, dysfunction, debate, and discord are words that exist in the negative sphere of most organizational managers, making them uncomfortable – tempting avoidance when possible. Despite this perceived negativity surrounding these terminologies, these descriptive words are often at the center of innovation when great minds challenge themselves and their team members to conceive truly creative ideas – transformative ideas that differentiate thriving from striving for success.

It is important to note that the words we use to describe the experience influence our perception of a situation’s benefits or drawbacks. I have experienced conflict-avoidant leaders using the term dysfunction to describe healthy debate, while stoic leaders use the word debate to describe dysfunction. The truth is that different individuals can use these words interchangeably to describe the same situation.

Understanding Conflict

Conflict is pervasive within any organization, often arising from differing perspectives, goals, or priorities among team members. However, the true differentiator lies in how organizations navigate and resolve these conflicts. Conflict manifests as tension, disagreement, or discord when different viewpoints or points of interest impede progress toward common goals. More importantly, conflict becomes disruptive when avoided or inadequately managed, leading to decreased productivity, morale, and, ultimately, organizational performance.

The Essence of Conflict Resolution

Contrary to popular belief, conflict resolution is not merely the absence of conflict but rather an active process of addressing and resolving underlying behaviours when evaluating differences. A process that demands engaging in constructive dialogue, negotiation, and problem-solving to reach mutually acceptable outcomes. Effective conflict resolution creates an environment that fosters collaboration, enhances communication, and strengthens relationships within the organizational ecosystem.

Strategies for Effective Conflict Resolution

Emotional Detachment

Negotiation teaches us that it is critically important to separate the person from the problem, and by maintaining a level-headed approach and focusing on the facts and objectives at hand, individuals can better navigate contentious situations without assigning blame, devaluing others, or feeling the need to defend their or others’ actions. A practice that leverages objectivity and promotes creative problem-solving.

SMB leaders are often expected to master many business functions, functioning as the lead resource even in areas that are outside their expertise. In such cases, separating their emotions from the situation eradicates the feeling of being judged because of their lack of expertise, which invites new ideas. A practice that encourages effective problem-solving rather than the previous practice inflates the cost resulting from enforcing suboptimal self-generated ideas.

NMCS Strategic Decision-Making Frameworks provide the framework for inclusive and comprehensive idea generation and objective evaluation of options.

Identify Baseline and Common Goals

Establishing a common understanding starts with establishing an agreed-upon baseline and shared goals from which all discussions can build and a reference point of understanding and agreement, bridging the gap between divergent perspectives when they become too contentious.

The commonly spoken-off issue is the management of the moving goalpost when leaders keep changing their goals to adapt to the ebbs and flows in the environment. More detrimental and destructive is changing strategies to achieve the goal or limited execution expertise—the decision that makes micro shifts on the plan necessary to achieve success. Often, the execution checks and balances details are left undefined; it leaves the path exposed to biases, risk and a widening gap between the desired goal and the current trajectory.

NMCS Strategic Management Journal was developed for anyone who struggles with executing their goals. Whether it is the subjective evaluation of the impact of the ebbs and flows in the environment, missing stepping stones, getting distracted or not tracking progress, this journal fosters a practice conducive to execution mastery.

Active Listening and Constructive Communication

Central to conflict resolution is the ability to understand and rationally evaluate opposing viewpoints. Actively listening to deduce the concerns, context, perspectives, and underlying interests fosters understanding and demonstrates a commitment to finding mutually beneficial solutions, a practice complemented by open, honest, and respectful communication. Encouraging transparent dialogue, expressing concerns assertively yet diplomatically, and actively soliciting feedback facilitate productive discussions and promote mutual respect among stakeholders.

Active Listening and Effective Communication are skills that are developed with intentional practice. They are often limited because many people do not know how to begin to overcome their weaknesses.

NMCS Leadership Processes Elevate Critical and Strategic Thinking book utilizes common practices we are all familiar with and adapts them into strategies anyone willing to improve can implement at their convenience. Strategies that will pinpoint exactly when they need to pause and encourage the other person to elaborate in order to develop an accurate understanding of their viewpoint. It also encourages a person to formulate a counterargument that will address the weakness in their arguments less contentiously, influencing them to listen and collaborate toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

Mediation

In complex or entrenched conflicts, enlisting the assistance of impartial third parties, such as mediators or facilitators, can facilitate constructive dialogue and guide parties toward mutually beneficial resolutions. Knowing your weakness is an excellent starting point; few of us are trained negotiators, equipped to concisely lay out the objective, evaluate opposing viewpoints subjectively and encourage creative problem-solving in contentious situations.

If the cost of a mediator is beyond your budget, consider a self-executed, logical, evaluating, economical solution—the NMCS Strategic Management Journal. It will capture your ideas and provide guided opportunities to ponder their impact and those of your opposing ideas in private.

Conclusion

In summary, while conflict is inevitable within any organization, effective conflict resolution fosters a culture of collaboration, innovation, and organizational resilience. By embracing the tool that complements your practice and strategies, such as emotional detachment, active listening, identifying baseline and shared goals, constructive communication, and leveraging mediation when necessary, organizations can transform conflicts into opportunities for growth, learning, and enhanced performance.

Don’t just wish for the skill; take action today to overcome weaknesses, take the lead, and leverage conflict to benefit your business.