“Conflict is one of the great inevitabilities of life (after death and taxes). And while you can try to avoid conflict for a while, you cannot escape it” – this is best-selling author and consultant in strategy Bernard Marr’s opening quote in his post: The vital soft skill of successful leaders.
Marr goes on to say that conflict management and resolution is an important soft skill for leaders, “because in a leadership position, you will encounter conflict every day”, and that avoiding conflict only worsens the problems. Don’t be the boss who gives into someone simply because you want to avoid conflict, he advises.
Marr gives his 5 steps for handling conflict:
1. Stop and think. Take a moment before you react, Marr says. “The first reactions are almost always emotional”, he says, “and those feelings can cloud the issue”.
“Great leaders don’t shy away from conflict or avoid it”
2. Acknowledge the conflict. Create an environment where conflict can be discussed.
3. Engage in active listening. Don’t rush to defend yourself, he says, rather make sure the other person knows they are being heard by asking questions and repeating key phrases he advises.
4. Stay on topic. “When responding or giving feedback, concentrate on the issue at hand, not how you feel about the person or what he or she might have done this morning or last week” he says.
5. Be respectful. It’s important that despite high emotions, respectful conduct is maintained, he says. “No matter how the other person reacts, stay calm and respectful” he says.
Conflict as a lesson
Learn from each conflict says Marr. “Great leaders don’t shy away from conflict or avoid it, but rather see it as a tool for bringing a team closer together”.
A version of this article first appeared on the World Economic Forum blog.