A leader boasting of managing an excellent team that has never encountered any conflict or tension is likely lying or hallucinating. According to a 1965 theory from psychologist, Bruce Tuckman, every team goes through four stages namely: forming (team creation), storming (start of conflicts), norming (coping with conflicts), and performing (overcoming conflicts). One role of a good leader is to guide a group to reach the end goal (performing stage) where each member is perfectly collaborating with one other.
However, according to the group dynamics theory from Tuckman, the desired final stage can never be attained without going through the storming stage where teammates start to experience conflicts. This inevitable phase may prove to be too challenging that many teams fail to overcome it leading to major problems such as disunity, hostility, and mediocrity. Other teams may cope by hiding the conflict where the members work in the guise of fully agreeing with everyone but the brewing tension underneath keeps the team stagnant from further growth.
On the contrary, an excellent leader is equipped with knowledge, skills, and strategies to successfully help the team move past the storming stage. The following are some ideas good leaders can apply in resolving team conflicts:
Anticipate conflicts early
Good leaders spend a great deal of time studying the team and its members until they get a broad grasp of the group’s strengths and weaknesses. This practice puts leaders in the best position to wisely predict the conflicts that the team may encounter. To avoid possible clashes and confrontations that can disrupt a team’s growth, the leader applies intervention strategies and decides to confront the problems early on. The leader also understands the importance of setting limits and boundaries in conflict management even before a team has to face one. This may mean that a leader discusses the possible scenarios for conflicts to the group and the standard procedures they need to follow in trying to solve it.
Maintain the team concept
A competent leader may welcome conflicts because it is a clear sign that each member is actively contributing inputs that can lead to a valuable innovation. In this regard, the team lead should likewise understand that since the strife is caused by several factors, the solution will not entirely come from the leader alone. It is important to treat conflict resolution as a team effort in order to come up with a solution that will be acceptable to each member. Leaders need good communication techniques to carry out this strategy to ensure that everyone gets to voice out their concerns and ideas. In addition, valuing the team also means showing mutual respect to one another so everyone listens to the opinion of others without resorting to unethical and unprofessional behaviors.
Focus on potential benefits
The task of ensuring peace within a team can be stressful. The capable leader easily carries this burden by focusing on the positive side of conflicts. Disagreements within a group are seen as blessings in disguise that can pave the ways for new knowledge and open doors to new opportunities. By encouraging the whole team to view conflicts in the same way, the leader teaches the people under him to look at the bright side and to exercise creativity to turn every situation to their advantage.
It is obvious that great leaders handle conflicts by looking at it as nothing but a phase that every team needs to go through to attain progress. In the end, smart leaders ultimately handle a smart team that can breeze through a wide range of challenges.