In my early 20’s a colleague coerced me into taking a Conflict Resolution course. He negotiated with me, saying you can take it for free, if you agree it’s worthwhile then we’ll talk about next steps. We called him ‘Right On Russell’. At the end of the course I agreed it was worthy of my time, it was by far one of the best things I did for myself and my career. My next steps were completing a set of courses that landed me with a Mediation Certification and a volunteer Mediator position with Right On Russell.
Why was it and is it so useful? Mainly, because it equipped me with the tools and language I needed to navigate conflict in my professional and personal life. Admittedly the professional came far easier than the personal, still does. The weekend training set me up for success and gave me the confidence to face conflict in a respectful way, necessary to note, respectful to me and to the other person.
Some people may believe that I like conflict, that’s not true. I recognize that it’s unavoidable and that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. And I know that because I’ve tried it. So I have spent a lifetime of confronting conflict sometimes really well and sometimes I failed miserably. Your goal should be to take the high road, even if the other person is not willing to, because you are accountable for you, so if you are motoring along the low road and taking pot shots and launching insults, being judgemental and beating them over the head with ‘your truth’ how likely is that you will reach a resolution?
If you break conflict down it can be pretty straight forward; Offence, Confrontation, Apology, Agreement, Reconciliation. Straight forward doesn’t = easy.
Let’s face it, we know right from wrong at it basic level. And as a leader, it’s your job to be the example, always. So when you have conflict, which I will assume is constantly, you need to be a leader who doesn’t ignore it and doesn’t explode it, you are taxed with being realistic, grateful, sensitive but not too sensitive and positive. Your high road doesn’t include demeaning or disabling. It includes a focused, caring, approach that will serve you, the offender and your team.
We tend to overthink conflict situations, like ‘what are they going to say or do’, ‘what if this’ or ‘what if that’, and it’s easy to get a far distance from the truth when you begin to invest time and energy in to what may or may not happen. But here’s the deal; you take the initiative even if you don’t want to, even if you don’t think its your fault, even if you think they should, even if you think you are right. Its your move.
As a leader, when it comes to conflict resolution, it’s always your move, which makes you a peace maker, not a conflict monger. You set the bar, your behaviour sets the rules of what is and is not acceptable. If you are easily ignited then your team will become easily ignited, not to mention shy away from sharing things with you, which is like a breeding ground for conflict un-resolution.
So I ask you, what are you ignoring? Where is your bar? Will you take the high road? Will you be a good example? Will you make your move, or will you pass?