Mel Savage Executive Coaching
Managing Relationships

How Leaders Master Managing Conflict (between them and someone else)

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How Leaders Master Managing Conflict
My mission in life is to make managing conflict so simple and gratifying, it becomes the favorite part of your job. Here are four leadership skills you can use to master managing conflict between you and another person.

“I love managing conflict. It’s my favorite thing to do!”… said no one. Ever.

But why not?

Maybe it’s because you don’t like it when people act like they don’t like you. Maybe you think it’s petty. Maybe you just don’t know where to start so you think you’re not good at it. Maybe you’re worried addressing it head-on will just make it worse.

Managing conflict definitely requires a high level of leadership and emotional intelligence, particularly when you as the leader are in conflict with someone else. It could be a boss, a peer, or anyone. Each individual situation will have its own nuance.

And the reality is that you will face conflict in your career. People will not like you. They will get mad at you or resent your success. Or they’ll get territorial and won’t want to collaborate with your department.

They’ll be all manner of conflict directed at you, even when it has nothing to do with you and even when you didn’t start it.

It’s my mission in life to make it so simple and gratifying for people to manage conflict that it becomes a favorite part of the job. If that sounds intriguing to you, then here are four leadership skills you can use to master managing conflict between you and another person.

Need help effectively managing conflict?  Book a free leadership strategy session.

How Leaders Master Managing Conflict (between them and someone else)
1: Take the power out of the word.

Conflict. It’s such a loaded word. Before you’ve done anything, you’ve already got your back up just by thinking there’s a conflict.

As a leader, sometimes you need to reframe the situation for your team to help them see things differently, and I suggest you do the same with the word “conflict”.

Maybe it’s not a conflict. Maybe it’s just a lack of shared expectations. Maybe it’s an opportunity to create a connection with someone else? Maybe it’s an opportunity for you to practice empathy or understanding?

How you frame the situation matters. It’s not semantics.

As I’m sure you’ve realized by this point in your career, perception is everything. If you think something will be easy, it becomes easy… and vice versa. Your perception of the situation will feed your emotional energy as you work to resolve the process error.

Choose to approach the “conflict” with pragmatic curiosity and empathetic understanding. And even if the other person is dialed up, your consistent non-defensive energy will level them out quickly so you collaborate on the best way forward.

2: Don’t make the person a problem.

Learned this one later than I would have liked – but hey – I learned it.

When you make the person a problem, then the conflict becomes personal and harder to resolve.

 

You end up saying things like “They’re like this… or They’re like that…”. Don’t make THEM a problem. And don’t make yourself a problem either.

The real problem lies in the “working process”, and probably in the expectations you each have about the working process and how it should be handled.

Even if you uncover that the way you or the other person are handling the process is a problem, it is still not personal. It’s still just a process error.

As a leader, you already know how to solve process problems.  So go solve the real problem, and don’t make it personal.

3: Be accountable for your own feelings.

I hear people say things like “They are so frustrating”… and you want the other person to stop doing things that make them frustrated.

So let’s say the other person isn’t including you in meetings or said something about you to your boss. You could get sad or mad or not give a shit … you don’t HAVE to get frustrated.

You’re deciding to get frustrated. And I’m not saying you’re wrong to be frustrated… I’m just saying, own the decision to be frustrated.   And here’s why…

Because when you own the decision to be frustrated, you also own the decision NOT to be frustrated – regardless of how the other person behaves.

 

And that’s powerful because no matter what they do, you can decide to get curious and not take it personally. Instead, you can be pragmatic and solutions-oriented.

That’s how you roll as a leader anyway, and you can bring that energy to this situation as well.

Need help learning to manage your emotional responses? Book a free leadership strategy session.

And finally…

4: Seek to understand their point of view.

If you haven’t read the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, I suggest you peruse it.

Here’s some Dale Carnegie 101 …. people want to be understood.  You do.  And they do.

 

As a leader, you know how to listen and be empathetic. You know how to have compassion for people. You know how to be open-minded.  So decide to pull on those skills and seek to understand where the other person is coming from.

They might try to blame you for hurt feelings and frustrations, but buried underneath all of that are just process errors.

Pull out the process errors and focus the conversation on those … and a little empathy doesn’t hurt either.  You can understand the way they feel without taking ownership of it.

Bottom Line - Managing conflict doesn’t have to be hard.

When you don’t make it personal, it can be a rewarding growth opportunity for everyone involved.

Interested in up-levelling your leadership effectiveness? Book a free leadership strategy session.

HI, I'M MEL

I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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