Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Can You Really Afford to Wait? Part 2: Conflict Management Is Time Management

In Part 1 of Can You Really Afford to Wait? I outlined how a clear purpose is half the battle of managing time and achieving career fulfilment.

Equally important to the management of time is the courage to deal with conflict. 


I think it is part of our cultural DNA here in the UK that we just don't "do" conflict.  There is something about getting into the nitty gritty of it that is distasteful and so extremely uncomfortable  that we avoid it at all costs.  But guess what?  Managing conflict is the other half of achieving your full potential and being able to manage your time well.  And once you learn a few simple lessons, it actually isn't that hard, either.

No, really.

Why is managing conflict so important to time management?  

Allowing disagreements and conflicts to exist amongst employees only serves to further delay progress.  If your direct reports are in the habit of coming to you with problems they have with other employees, you certainly want to convey the expectation that they resolve the problem between them.  However, if after a few days a solution that will be reasonably expected to last has not developed, it is in fact your responsibility and in your best interest to ensure conflict is addressed.  Most likely this involves sitting in the same room or on the same video link with those involved.  Each person must be listened to by the other party.  Each party must be able to accurately convey the views of the other party.  (Not just say "I understand."  They actually need to outline them back to the other party.)  Only then can suggestions for resolution be proposed and considered.

Negotiation and conflict resolution on complex matters will be more involved and most likely require multiple meetings or a skilled facilitator.  But from small tiffs to cross-continental blow outs, at the heart of managing all conflict is the ability to actively listen without judgment, to accurately understand each party's interests and priorities, and to seek solutions that meet the majority of needs for all parties.

Conflicts that focus on each party's position, only escalate into a stalemate.  And no leader can afford to have employees who do not communicate with each other.  I do not know one leader today who has not had to do with less headcount than they think they need in the last few years.  So how much do you think it costs to have employees who don't communicate?  Resolving conflict really is not something you can afford to wait on.

Sometimes, however, the conflict is beyond our span of control.  In these situations it is much better to find a way to flow around these difficulties than to waste time going through them. This requires challenging the assumptions we make and innovative thinking.  The first step in this is unlocking the creativity of employees.  A topic for a future blog, I believe.

To summarise Parts 1 and 2 of Can You Really Afford to Wait, I encourage you to consider what you most want to achieve in your career, and to develop your purpose based on your values and abilities.  Then make sure your followers understand your purpose, too, and have the courage of conviction to work through the conflict, or around it as necessary, to ultimately fulfil your purpose.

For more information on how Talent Futures can help your team develop their ability to resolve conflict and negotiate, see our website and a related blog OMG! What Did She Just Ask For? On Women and Negotiations.

Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures

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