The setting couldn’t have been better: The training room windows inside the lodge pole looked out onto a thick forest. At the other end of the room cushy leather chairs faced a fireplace. The food was gourmet-organic and during breaks we could take walks on the beach. The environment was harmonious. Perfect!
For the 15 leaders I was hired to work with, however, the same couldn’t be said: Harmonious with one another they weren’t.
This team was in strife. Over several months of working together, slowly, unexpressed conflict grew. Silence and distrust became overwhelming. And now the tension was as thick as chunky peanut butter.
This team’s issues weren’t unique. Like many other companies, their inability to effectively manage conflict had choked off their innovation and open communication.
If you believe that friendships, marriages, teams and companies grow and die one conversation at a time then this team was slowly marching toward their grave. Yet, they were aware of it. And they had courage to take action. If the company was going to thrive, they needed to thrive as a team. And if that were to happen, they had to get really good at managing conflict.
After many exercise and discussions the group slowly started to open up and heal. Communication improved. Vulnerability and hurt developed into trust and confidence. Yet, they knew old patterns could return, so they decided to create a process. They fondly called it CRAP: Conflict Resolution Action Plan. Here it is:
- When conflict arises between two parties the one with the issue will first attempt to go directly to the person with whom they have the conflict.
- When a third party is needed to be involved for counsel or clarification, the third party will only be used as a sounding board.
Third Part Responsibilities:
- Counsel and clarify
- Remind the person to go to the other with whom there is conflict
- To never share the information with others, including the conflicted party.
- To remain objective.
- To deal with one issue at a time until completion is achieved.
- Listen. Acknowledge others’ point of view and request acknowledgment if needed.
- Ask questions to get the whole story.
- Speak only for yourself.
- Ask for permission before giving feedback.
- Resolve for a win/win solution.
- Confirm acceptance.
I checked in on them a year later and they were still using their process. And, turns out employee engagement, customer satisfaction and sales were all up.
The Mount Everest of communication is conflict. Ascending, getting on top of and getting past a tough conflict isn’t easy. But when we create a process for resolving conflict and follow it, we enter into a new level of personal power and possibility. It is here we can express our full potential and make decisions based on benefits not fear, contribution not avoidance.