I find it fascinating how many leaders dislike the word “conflict” – to the extent they refuse to use it. We have such horrible images of conflict and perceive that when people engage in a conversation where there is conflict there will necessarily be aggressive behaviour. What an interesting culture we have created!
I regularly articulate with these same leaders that things are not always going to go smoothly at work with people; those around you, in your team, your boss, critical stakeholders like clients, suppliers and regulators. Through our natural course of living each day we make choices and decisions; and because of these we experience a difference of opinion, different priorities, different needs and different expectations with these other people. These differences ARE conflict even though many of us don’t like to use this word – that is exactly what it is.
When leaders expect conflict will happen, build emotional resilience and embrace the conflict constructively in order to resolve and handle it brilliantly then great outcomes are created and “innovative outcomes” evolve.
Always remember that challenging can ignite the kind of divergent thinking that triggers conflict and then keep top of mind why conflict is such a remarkable business performance tool – it is a process that produces something of great beauty – just like the pearl – it is the result of great irritation.
So when you are feeling particularly stressed and frustrated by the process of conflict, instead of becoming defensive and thinking negative thoughts recall that if you stick with it something of great beauty will be produced. Recognise that these feelings of irritation are completely necessary and part of this remarkable process.
Let’s stop trying to get people to refrain from using the word “conflict” and rather re-frame our thoughts and feelings about the word itself – conflict!