Getting your project up to speed can be stressful. You have assembled a new team, you are working on your service or product, you are improvising left right and center and future planning and real-time communication can collide. When things go wrong, emotions can run high and a previously calm interaction can turn into a slippery slope in seconds. Soon enough you are butting heads with your team and spending more energy on conflict resolution than moving forward on solutions. Knowing that people will lapse into habitual behavior and reactions when conflict arises can help you to pull a stop before things get worse. Some people blow up, other people turn silent, others get confused or suddenly cannot remember what was said or what they had agreed to. Remembering that all of this is human and pushing the pause button before things get worse can help to identify what the conflict is about.
Setting a time frame in which to resolve conflict isn’t only helpful, it also alleviates the fear of things remaining unsolved. To figure out how to move forward there usually are two components that need to be considered– like a missed deadline, a product that doesn’t function well or an idea that clashes with someone’s values. In addition there are the needs that aren’t met in the interaction. As a result of what happened you and the other party doesn’t feel heard or misunderstood or is scared to look unprofessional or feels disrespected which triggers stress and feelings that can be hard to process. Finding out what the unmet need is, is half the rent. If the other person needs to be heard – give them the opportunity to be heard, if they are scared of embarrassment, help them figure out what would help them to show up in the way they want. From there it will be much more productive to move into solution finding and come up with something that either resolves the problem or ends up something even better.
The principles and techniques described above are taught as part of a Radical Collaboration Training developed by Jim Tamm in Florida (http://www.radicalcollaboration.com). Our team member Chantal has been certified as a Radical Collaboration Trainer and took three days in the spring to train the team. We are now practicing the application at work and are – hick-ups and all – getting to know each others conflict styles better.