As a manager, you can’t take on everybody’s problems.

In the swirl of information and interactions, conflict will bubble and flare up, driven by disagreements, personal grievances, or misunderstandings. But getting drawn in doesn’t help others manage the conflict and each other — nor does trying to figure out all the answers yourself.

The following 6 tips are based on our approach to leading through conflict. They can help you have a better conversation when you are being asked to weigh in on a conflict — or if you’re already in the middle of one:


1. Set the Stage: How will you create an atmosphere of openness, constructive criticism, and problem solving? How will you emphasize that you want to work together to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution? Noting possible points you want to make before the conversation can help you focus on remaining open, listen without interrupting, or showing anger.

2. Describe the Conflict: Describe the conflict from your perspective as objectively, clearly, and specifically as you can.

3. Gain Perspective: What questions will you ask to understand the other person’s perspective? To confirm or disconfirm your hypothesis? Do not assume you understand all the facts.

4. Seek Agreement: Identify potential points of mutual agreement and areas of disagreement. Come up with possible solutions that might satisfactorily resolve the conflict in a constructive way. 

5. Identify Solutions: Together, select a solution or combination of solutions that best meet all parties’ needs. (Be willing to compromise. Remember, you are looking for a reasonable solution, not a victory.)

6. Develop an Action Plan: Establish a plan with specific actions that you’re both willing to take to implement the solution. Express your appreciation for everything the person contributed to the problem-solving session. Communicate your willingness to meet again to check on progress.

Ready to change? Learn more about our Workshop Kits on Conflict.

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