Although we would be hard-pressed to find individuals willing to admit that managing conflict is their favorite part of leading others, inspirational leaders recognize the necessity of mastery in this area to produce results within the organizations they lead.
When managers shy away from giving feedback, managing performance and engaging in difficult conversations within an organization, they reinforce the fearful and destructive habits that prevent companies from identifying and addressing the obstacles that hinder successful outcomes. Instead, employees are taught that avoidance, tolerance of substandard performance and distraction are preferable to engaging in the kind of healthy conflict that moves people and companies forward.
Although the reasons for avoiding conflict can range from unhappy childhood experiences to lacking the skills necessary to manage conflict when it arises, the organizational impact cannot be underestimated. Leaders and organizations that lack conflict management skills will see conditions such as:
Colleagues who have become overly agreeable and play it safe. They resist the urge to challenge assumptions and ideas and learn that going with the consensus is the easier option.
Tolerance of substandard performance that not only compromises results, but also demotivates others from challenging themselves to increase levels of participation and accomplishment.
Employees lacking the feedback, coaching and support they need to improve skills, manage expectations and deliver increasing results.
Deteriorating trust in professional partnerships because of a lack of professional safety, skill to manage friction and experience in finding opportunity in moments of disagreement.
Successful leaders understand their responsibility as role models and ambassadors for effective mitigation strategies. They partner with coaches to understand the roots of personal conflict avoidance and explore adaptive conflict management strategies. They embrace the potential inherent in passionate disagreement and they foster the conditions that allow moments of intensity to be the impetus for organizational change. Although negotiating conflict within an organization can be one of the most challenging lessons of the leadership process, no other coaching objective yields a greater positive impact on leaders and the teams that rely upon them for support.