Effective Ways for Leaders to Handle Team Conflict

Despite a leader’s best intentions, it’s impossible to avoid conflict. Great leaders are never satisfied with maintaining the status quo. Instead, they push their teams improved performance. As agents of change, leaders should naturally expect to encounter push back and outright resistance from time to time.

So, what do you need to know about conflict and how to resolve it?

As leader, how do you deal with it?

The Cost of Unresolved Conflict

While it might be tempting to ignore conflict, especially if it’s minor, don’t!

Unresolved conflict damages morale. It creates barriers to communication, cooperation, trust and respect. It creates resentment and can split your team and stop your workflow.

To be an effective leader, you must expect and deal with conflict.

Understanding the Source of Conflict

Where does conflict come from? Is there always a “right” and “wrong” party? The answer is no.

The source of almost all conflicts can be reduced to one of two things: miscommunication or emotions running out of control.

Once you pinpoint the source, you can plan how to handle it.

Miscommunication is a big issue

One of the biggest sources of conflict is misunderstanding. Someone gets the ‘bull by the horns’ and it starts trouble. That’s why it’s so important to be careful with what you say, and make sure everyone has received the correct message.

Great leaders have excellent communication skills, but they also spend a lot of time talking with their teams. That’s important because it lets the team get used to the leader’s communication style, which makes it less likely they’ll be misunderstood.

Improving your communications with others will reduce the likelihood of conflicts within your team.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Have you ever become caught up in the moment and said or done something that you knew you’d regret, but you said or did it anyway?

It’s OK to admit it! Nearly everyone, at one time or another, has let their emotions get the best of them. When this happens, conflict soon follows.

Smart leaders learn how to use their emotional intelligence to help them “calm down” in difficult situations. They self-regulate and control their emotions, so they can pause and take a breath before they act.

When you’re dealing with a team member who’s hot under the collar, remember how you felt last time you lost it, and let the person get all that emotion out before you try to solve the problem. When the emotion is spent, you can start to talk rationally to each other. And don’t hold it against them. We all say things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment, and sometimes there’s an element of truth there which you would not have picked up on any other way.

Eliminate Hot Spots of Contention

Being an effective leader isn’t just about improving your communications and defusing a crisis. One of the best ways to reduce conflict is to anticipate situations where it’s likely to occur and put plans in place to avoid it or minimise the impact.

This is a pretty good framework for conflict reduction in your workplace:

Create Clarity Around Roles

Conflicts happen when members of your team don’t understand their role and responsibilities. Take the time to talk to your people about their job duties, and make sure they know what they are responsible for.

See the Opportunity in Conflict

Conflict isn’t always bad because it can act as a bridge to greater understanding between parties. Examining the events that led up to the conflict, and, taking steps to resolve it can be a great teaching moment where everyone involved can learn more about themselves and others. Remember to talk about the conflict once it’s resolved to help your team members discover the learning moments for themselves.

Make Certain You Understand Everyone’s Motivation Before You Weigh In

Leaders act as facilitators and bring others together. When it comes to resolving conflicts, however, you must make certain you understand everyone’s motivations before you take a stance.

When faced with a decision, try not to think about who’s wrong or right. Instead, think about the motivation of each person and look for ways everyone can “win,” or achieve some of their goals. That’s the way to create a solution everyone can live with.

Find out more about how you can be a Great Leader today.

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonald Keynote Speaker

Sonia McDonald believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.

For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.

Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognised as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.

She is an award-winning published author and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.

Sonia provides the BEST Leadership Coaching and Programs across Asia Pacific.

Keynote Topics

Sonia will give you peace of mind when booking a speaker. She is a proven world-class professional speaker with the skills to “rock an audience”. Her energy, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, and humour will enhance any event she appears.

1. Leadership Attitude

2. Just Rock It

3. Leadership for Small Business

4. Leading the Next Generations

5. Courageous Leadership

6. Future Leaders of Leadership

7. New Kindness of Leadership

Phone 1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616



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