The Importance of Conflict Resolution Skills

Most people would tell you that conflict resolution skills are essential for all leaders. I absolutely agree with that. Authentic Leaders meet conflicts head on. They don’t avoid them, they work through them to build consensus in a way that is people valuing and face-saving.

For those Authentic Leaders conflict resolution skills are vital.

But most people in leadership positions are not Authentic Leaders. They count on their title and position to do the heavy lifting of leadership for them. Many of them remain in leadership positions for years never learning what Authentic Leadership looks like.

For those leaders few things are less important than conflict resolution skills. That’s because they avoid conflicts like the plague.

Most of those leaders would say they avoid conflict because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They would say their relationship with their people is more important than dealing with conflicts. Some would say they do indeed deal with conflict but only when “the time is right.” The problem for those leaders is that they never find the right time.

What those leaders won’t tell you is that one big reason they refuse to engage in a conflict is because they lack the courage and the compassion to do so. Another reason is that they believe that have only two choices when it comes to conflict. Those choices are fight or flight.

Nearly 100% of the time they choose flight. The see any conflict as a potential fight and they want none of it. What these weaker leaders need to understand is that an Authentic Leader does not allow a conflict to become a fight. So they have no need for flight.

Authentic Leaders dislike conflict as much as anyone. That’s precisely the reason they meet the challenge of conflict head on… so that they can get rid of it. So that they and their people can learn from it. So that they and their people can grow closer because of it. So that it doesn’t simmer under the surface and undermine the morale of the conflicted parties and of all the people around them as well.

The reality is that no one actually avoids conflicts, but some people do attempt to live with them. But left unsettled conflict is an untreated cancer on both organizations and relationships.

If you’re serious about resolving conflicts you will listen far more than you talk. If your responses include any variation “yes but” it may indicate that you’re being defensive. We don’t listen very well when our defenses are up. So check yourself to be certain you’re willing to have your opinion changed. Authentic Leaders know that they can be wrong about pretty much anything, just like everyone else.

To effectively resolve any conflict leave your “blame game” at home. The original cause of a conflict is less important than the lasting resolution. When you place blame on people you cause them to disengage. All parties to a conflict MUST be part of the solution. Before you engage in conflict resolution ask yourself what your goal is… do you want to place blame or do you want to resolve the conflict.

It goes without saying that only one of those goals is productive. Authentic Leaders know which one.

Authentic Leaders are willing to compromise to find lasting solutions to conflicts. They demonstrate that while they may be passionate about their own point of view they value workable resolutions over “winning.” They in fact understand that “winning” requires all sides be able to resolve the conflict with their self-respect intact.

Authentic Leaders with excellent conflict resolution skills do not forget the importance of relationships. They realize that how they make the other people feel is just as important as the eventual resolution. That “feeling” will likely outlast the resolution. It will also impact, either positively and negatively, any attempts to resolve future conflicts.

No matter how fast and far you run you should know that the conflict you’re running from will be waiting for you when you get there. So don’t run. The sooner you deal with the conflict the sooner you can return to building healthy and productive relationships with your people.

That makes the effort required to successfully resolve conflicts well worth it.

The Goal of Accountability

I’ve met a few people who said they enjoyed being held accountable. To say I’m a bit skeptical about anyone truly enjoying accountability would be an understatement. I don’t believe anyone really likes it.

But here’s something else I believe about accountability… every single person I’ve ever met performs at a higher level when they are accountable to someone or something.

Leaders who truly care for their people hold them accountable. They hold them accountable to help them reach their potential. They key word in that previous sentence is “help.” The goal of accountability is to help people. To help them grow. To help protect them from the destructive pressure of procrastination by replacing it with the constructive pressure of accountability.

If you’re a leader who feels it is more important to be liked by the people you lead then it is to hold them accountable, then you’re a leader who has a fatal flaw. You may care about your people but you’re not demonstrating that you care for them. It is likely that you are attempting to manage your people rather than lead them. That too is a fatal flaw, in fact, it is the most fatal of all leadership flaws.

All leaders care about their people. They want them to show up for work, they want them to follow directions and they want them to accomplish whatever tasks are in their job descriptions.

Authentic leaders care for their people. They show it by helping them become all that they can. They show it by believing in their people even when their people might not believe in themselves.

Lessor leaders see holding people accountable as something you do TO them. Authentic Leaders know holding people accountable is something you do FOR them.

If you’re a leader who is allowing your people to produce mediocre results then that’s all you will get from your people. If you’re a leader and the people you lead are producing mediocre results then it’s overwhelmingly likely that you are a mediocre leader…or worse.

The good news is, you, and your people, can grow out of mediocrity.

Great leaders all know that holding their people accountable to accomplish ALL that they can is one of the kindest and most leader like things they can do. Their people may not understand that as they are being held accountable but when they look back on their success they quickly figure it out. Even if they don’t want to admit it.

If you have the audacity to call or even think of yourself as leader then you must help your people achieve all that they possibly can. You don’t do that by being buddies or besties, you do that by believing in them and by helping them believe in themselves.

That’s the goal of accountability!