It is said that calm seas don't make skillful sailors. Managing and navigating conflict is not only the responsibility of a leader - it is also an opportunity. I reached out to five emerging leaders that I know and asked them: "How do you manage conflict?" Here's what I heard:
Communication, Communication, Communication
It is no surprise that conflicts stem from miscommunication. One leader I spoke with encourages people not to be "overly diplomatic," because such behavior "can just push the real issues under the rug." Instead, confront conflict through communication - a face to face discussion is often the best start towards resolution.
Patience for a Problem's Passing: Benign vs. Malignant
A few people suggested that, after some time for thought, most problems disappear altogether with no action at all. While one's instinct is often to act and address a conflict immediately, great leaders know when a problem is "benign" and, with a little patience, will disappear on its own. Of course, you must also recognize the malignant problems. Some problems will simply get exponentially worse over time. One leader recalled, "I remember one conflict that came up between a committee I was leading and a fellow member. The longer we waited, the worse the problem became. As soon as we discussed it openly with the member, the issue was resolved."
A conflict is often a tangle of conflicts rather than just one isolated issue. Great leaders pick problems apart, one issue at a time. One leader explains, "I've found it is often better to focus on one issue, resolve it, and then move on to the next rather than trying to tackle everything at the same time."
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