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Conflict...A New Perspective
by Julie Fuimano

I was recently asked to address the issue of conflict resolution at the hospital of one of our clients. In today’s fast-paced and stressed-out society, conflict resolution is a critical issue. People don’t always have the time or the tools to handle conflict.

The word ‘conflict’ connotes something bad. People think of conflict and they think of two people in a heated argument. But as the workplace shapes itself to recognize and be more accepting of diversity and differing opinions and as companies write their diversity policies, why not change the way we view conflict and embrace it as something to be valued instead of dispelled?

Conflict Defined

Conflict is defined as a disagreement, a battle or to be at odds. In essence, conflict is a differing of opinions, point of views or ideas. Conflict occurs when two or more people see things from different perspectives, given their education, background, upbringing, knowledge of the issue, beliefs, time of day, mood, etc. Is this not the definition of diversity? Diversity is a variety, an assortment or a mixture. And accepting diversity means accepting that people have inherently different views on how they see the world and how to get things done.

The Source Of Conflict

So why then do people get so uptight and agitated when disagreements occur? There are two main reasons: one, when the idea is presented and then rejected, the person may take it as a personal attack. The second reason is that the person might be attached to it being done their way.

As a leader and a role model, recognize there is always another way to accomplish something, not just your way or the way it’s always been done. Be open to receiving input from others, recognizing that their perspective offers you the opportunity to see the issue or problem in a way that you might not have considered. When you present your suggestions and opinions, detach yourself from whether your suggestion is implemented. While it may seem like the best choice from your vantage point, realize there may be many other factors that go into making the decision and that it’s not about you as a person.

Acknowledge The Conflict

When faced with conflict, don’t run from it; acknowledge it for what it is – diversity of thought. Ask each person to share his or her ideas. Compliment each of them on their innovative and unique perspectives. Praise each of those on your team so they understand how important their differing opinions are. By doing so, you are demonstrating leadership and showing respect for their diverse perspectives. Seek to understand where each person is coming from and help each of the participants understand the other’s point of view. Once you understand the framework behind their perspective, you can help to dissolve the conflict and refocus their energies on finding solutions.

Focus On The Outcome

When its time to focus on selecting the most appropriate course of action, focus on achieving the best possible outcome. Take the focus off the people in the conflict and the conflict itself and focus on solving the problem. Use the tools you have available – your company policies, your vision statement and the mission of your organization - to guide you in selecting the best path for reaching the outcome you desire. In order to transcend conflict and embrace diversity of thought, you can brainstorm to explode the possibilities and then explore the alternatives. Try coming up with suggestions by asking “what if” questions with possible scenarios. What strategy, suggestion or idea will bring about the best outcome in this situation given the mission of your department or organization? Then decide how to proceed. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter what suggestion is used or who thought of it, only that the strategy chosen best represents the mission of your organization and is the one that has the best chance for success.

Transcend Conflict

In order to transcend conflict, learn to celebrate the differing perspectives of colleagues. Make it part of the culture of your company to seek new perspectives and challenge personal paradigms. Make it okay to question the way people think and act. If you want to change the culture within your company, you have to make it okay to think and act differently. It starts with creating an environment that embraces differences, which happens through the actions of leaders, not with policies or planning.

Coaching tip: Create a regular forum for people to attend moderated by a manager, coach or facilitator, where your team members can discuss situations that occurred, how they handled them and how else they could’ve responded. By creating a forum for discussion and dialogue, it challenges people to reach beyond their own limited view to see and learn more of the possibilities that exist.

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Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN is a Success Coach and author of “101 Tips For Developing The Leader In You!” Her passion is coaching executives, managers, entrepreneurs and professionals to achieve more - more money, more time, more energy, more fun and less stress! For your free consultation, visit Julie at http://www.nurturingyoursuccess.com, or call her directly at (484) 530-5024.

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