How to Turn Conflict Into Teamwork

It isn't enough to talk about peace, one must believe it.And it isn't enough to believe in it, one must work for it.                                                                             - Eleanor Roosevelt

One of my clients is in a predicament that will feel familiar to a lot of leaders. On her team, two peers aren't collaborating, and they keep escalating their conflict. When she tries to intervene, they just dig in deeper.

This situation is an example of how a leader can set the tone. That's a theme we've been looking at throughout March in honor of Women's History Month. In this case, your leadership skills can make the difference in whether a conflict drags on (draining everyone's productivity) or gets resolved (boosting your team's results).



If you have a couple of team members who just can't seem to work together, try these ideas to get everyone back on track.

  1. Look at your role. How might you be enabling the conflict to continue? Has communication gotten fragmented between your quarreling team members because you've put yourself right in the middle of things? Remember that you can be supportive without being in the middle. Make it clear to the team members that while you can offer help, they own the problem and its resolution.

  1. Establish the big picture. One good way to help without getting stuck in the middle of the conflict is by giving your team members a perspective check. Let's say that one of them is accountable for creating the highest margins for the company while the other is accountable for customer satisfaction. The two of them are being rewarded for very different things that can lead to different business decisions, which might explain one of the sources of conflict in the first place. As a leader, you can remind them to think in terms of the company's overall success and how both goals can be met, not just how well their individual area performs.

  1. Help them see everyone's place in that picture. Talk with the team members about how they both fit into the company's larger goals, even though they are accountable for different things. Help them see how the big-picture success of the company might involve balancing their two individual goals. In our example, that could mean helping your team members understand that while margins are important, prices can't be so high that they run off customers. On the other hand, happy customers are vital, but so are sustainable margins. Sometimes as leaders we feel that employees should "just know" things like this and instinctively do what's right for the company. But you might have to help them connect the dots.

This week, take a look at whether there are any conflicts on your team that might come from team members being too focused on their own areas and not enough on the bigger picture. How can you help your feuding team members see beyond differences and align with higher level goals? This is a great opportunity to make a real impact with your leadership skills. In my online store, you can find many more resources to help your team members' leadership development, including the WOW! Highlight AudioSM.