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Conflict Management as a Team Competence

October 23 2017 - by Dr. Lois Parkes, CLP's Regional Project Manager

Communication and interpersonal skills are key to being an effective leader, and the application of these skills are particularly important in leading teams and addressing inevitable conflicts. One of the areas covered in CLP’s Leadership Development Programmes is having difficult conversations. While reflecting on one of our recent sessions, this question arose for me - how can conflict management be developed as a team competence? Conflict, as we know, is inevitable among teams, and is even healthy. Handled incorrectly however, it has immeasurable negative impacts at the individual, team and organizational levels.

So what strategies can teams employ to develop conflict management as a team competence? Below are a few tips that I credit a former team leader for modelling and sharing:

  1. Open communication. Team leaders need to proactively encourage their teams to discuss team dynamics. Poor team dynamics is often at the heart of team conflicts. Discussing the issue, however, creates a collective consciousness of being a part of a team, and what it means. Key issues to clarify are:
  • Capabilities – understanding the extent to which each member can deliver on their commitments
  • Risks – what are the risks to team rapport, and how these can be mitigated?
  • Communication – how can communication flow affect team work and what are the best communication processes for this team to be effective? How will the team treat with differences of opinions, and avoid snap judgements of others’ contributions?
  • Agreements – what are the agreements (both formal and informal) within the team, and how do these shape the team?
  • Character – To what extent are team members being true to their word?
  • Caring – To what extent are team members sympathetic to the needs of other team members?
  • Role Clarification – understanding who exactly is responsible for doing/leading certain tasks, who needs to collaborate and how, and questioning whether there are key tasks left unassigned
  • Accountability – determining how the team members will be held accountable to each other
  1. Discuss and agree standards for operating as a team. It is very important to not only discuss but to also have agreement on team norms, and strategies for addressing conflicts. To take it a step further, teams should document these and ensure these are readily available for ease of reference and to serve as a guide for assessing agreed team norms.
  2. Evaluate periodically. Develop the team habit of assessing how the team is progressing, the level of adherence to agreed team norms and addressing areas for improvement.

Ultimately, if teams proactively develop appropriate team dynamics and conflict resolution strategies, it becomes easier to address conflicts when they arise.

As you reflect on this topic, I invite you to comment and share with us any additional tips on how teams can effectively address conflict, or your own stories of effective team conflict management.

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Fay - Reply

From my experience management style has a lot to do with conflict within an orgaistion. Relying on the 'slave master' type mindset and not evolving into a more democratic  form of management really hinders progress.

Lois Parkes

Agreed, Fay. Thanks for your comment 

Nichole Chambers - Reply

The summary above is excellent and spot on in relation to how to handle conflict within your team.

It is interesting to see that not much needs to be done if the correct approach outlined in 1-3 above carried out.

 

I have benefitted greatly from reading the segment. 

 

Than you. 

Lois Parkes

Thanks for your comment.

 

 

Shantel Nembhard-Edwards - Reply

Hello Lois

 

Congrats on your PhD - I found your article very informative.  Give me  a call when you can i would love to catch up

Shantel

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