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Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just got along? While that seems like a nice idea, you can’t eliminate conflict completely, and you shouldn’t. Well managed conflict can help cultivate discussion and create opportunities to uncover new and innovative solutions.

So, as a business owner how do you establish an environment which cultivates healthy conflict? Start with these basic principles to drive successful outcomes.

Productive Conflict Resolution

  1. Accept conflict as a natural part of a relationship, something which isn’t necessarily good or bad. It can be very healthy if the conflict occurs when people have different ideas on how to solve a problem and they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. The conflict resolution process can lead to open and honest conversations about more than just the question on the table.
  2. Willingness to take time to resolve issues. Conflict can be messy and it may take several conversations to get to come to a solution. As a team leader, you need to have a process for managing issues and building in time to work through them completely. If you try to rush the process, the issue will pop up again in a slightly different form. In the long run, it will take more time, or never really be resolved if you don’t take time up front.
  3. Create a climate of mutual trust or a desire to establish trust. Conflict leads to productive conversations if the participants trust each other and feel their ideas and opinions will be respected. They need to know there is no “punishment” for an idea which goes against the accepted norms. In a safe environment where people are comfortable expressing feelings, they are more likely to share how decisions will impact them and the ‘why’ behind their suggestions.
  4. A desire for resolution, not a desire to win. Let’s face it, everyone likes to be right and to see their ideas put into practice. But sometimes your ideas aren’t best. If people are more focused on proving they are right and winning the argument, others on the team may acquiesce. You will have a solution, but it won’t necessarily be the best solution. As a manager, this is a hard change to make because it means giving up control. However, if you have hired the right people, they should have good opinions about their job and the company. Be prepared to listen and let others win.
  5. Two best options, don’t choose yours. If multiple solutions are proposed and there are at least two viable options, choose one suggested by a passionate team member. Why? If it is their idea, they will be more likely to work to ensure that it is implemented properly. And it sends a strong message that you are serious about finding the best alternatives. If the team feels you are willing to use their ideas when appropriate, they will be more comfortable when you have to make an “executive” decision.
  6. Consensus not compromise. Too often teams try to please everyone and end up watering down the final solution. Set expectations up front that you will listen to all the input and weigh the options. In return, all participants agree to accept the final solution. If you do steps 1 – 5 consistently, demonstrating an unbiased, open conversation, the team will be able to accept the proposed solution.

Why write about conflict resolution on a marketing blog? We approach every conversation with our clients ready to follow these steps. It is not that we expect a conflict, but by creating a space for the open dialogue we are able to deliver work we are proud of and our customers love.

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