Have you ever tried to resolve conflict when there was no motivation? Although we often see the other person as the problem, maybe you were resistant, too. Regardless, without any desire to change, it's a lot harder to work things out.
When you're helping others resolve conflict, is it any easier?
In May, Ki Moments began a series of posts about The Manager as Mediator, designed to help managers and leaders address organizational and personality conflict involving coworkers, management, and leadership teams. Designed as a coaching intervention, the 5-step model offers a step-by-step process for developing skills in yourself and the people you support.
Today, we focus on Step #2: Measure and Gain Commitment.
How do you overcome employees' resistance to the process you're asking them to engage in? Sometimes humans are stubborn. When the choice seems to be about being right or wrong, we almost always prefer being right. Working on the issue might mean having to look in the mirror. And if they knew how, they would have done it already, correct? Not necessarily. While resolution would make life easier, there must be a benefit to continuing the conflict or it would have ended long ago.
Your job is to help them find and understand the current benefit and replace it with others that will be more advantageous to their career, make them happier, and give them more power in the long run. The result is more than conflict resolution. This is about developing skilled leaders and role models in the organization.
Are they willing to try to make this work? If there is one key ingredient for a successful outcome, it is the participants' willingness to commit. And it can be difficult to judge. I may want to apprear willing because I feel I should. Or because I believe that as the process unfolds, it will be discovered that the “other” is at fault and will have to be the one to change.
In conflict, the predominant story is that everything would be fine if the other person were different.
It may take one or two individual sessions to determine each person's motivation and commitment. I often ask questions like the following to get a sense of this and to generate conversation around the topic. I ask at the beginning and again later on as skills and perspective develop:
On a scale of 1-10, how optimistic are you about resolving this conflict?
On a scale of 1-10, what is your willingness to resolve the issues? What is your commitment to this process?
In a situation like this, it's helpful to distinguish motivation from capacity. Capacity can be built. Motivation can be encouraged but not mandated. Motivation is an inside job.
For example, when working some years ago with two middle management leaders, it became clear that one party was capable but not willing. She was a technical star in the customer service arena but didn't get along well with colleagues. She had some awareness of her part in the difficulty but saw no reason to change since she was successful in so many ways. In the end, she changed because she saw the advantages to more effective interaction with her colleagues. One of her key motivators was her desire to achieve. She saw that she could be successful relationally as well as technically.
Gain Commitment to Resolve the Conflict: The 5 Ps
Gaining commitment to resolve the conflict is really about building awareness and encouraging the parties to see what's in it for them. I find the best encouragement to be a combination of the following 5 motivators:
- Set consequences early and invite them to participate. What are all the possible choices at this point? What are the natural consequences of continuing the conflict? Help them make the right choice.
- Be clear and consistent about the consequences of each choice.
- What is the best possible outcome?
- Ask them to imagine the future with the problem solved. What would be different? Less stress? More cooperation, freedom, productivity?
- This is your primary power--the power of the organization’s purpose.
- Paint a picture of where the organization is going--its strengths, its future and its mission in the world. How do they complete this picture? What is their role in carrying the vision forward? What’s needed from them?
- Connect with their purpose for joining the company.
- Connect with their higher purpose. What do you know of their life goals, vision, hopes and beliefs?
4) Performance and Productivity
- You are investing in their future with the organization.
- This is a vote of confidence, not a punishment.
5) Personal Power
- The process will affect how they manage conflict and difficulty in the whole of life.
- They will acquire skills to make life easier, work more enjoyable, and conflict a gift and teacher.
Conflict habits are like other habits. As you work with your colleagues to resolve their conflicts, you will also practice the skills, attitudes, and behaviors you want for yourself, and this important aspect of your job will become easier and more satisfying. In the process, you'll increase your own leadership presence and power to manage whatever may come.