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Blog : Can conflict equal success?

Blog

Can conflict equal success?


By Jo Harley - Director

This year we took the decision to transform our business in a number of ways in order to reflect the wide range of work we do with clients; employer branding, culture and values, the means of identifying the right talent through to engaging and developing them up until they eventually decide to leave you having had a positive experience.  We’ve also been fortunate to continue to grow throughout the economic downturn and want to be ready to embrace future opportunities as the climate improves. We’re fighting fit though, like American swim champion Michael Phelps, we always want to be fitter. 

Any period of change will inevitably throw up conflict. Rather than avoid or minimise this, we see it as a positive and necessary product of change; through conflict resolution an organisation will progress, evolve and grow.  Although it may, at first, feel uncomfortable having difficult discussions, it can drive innovation. By talking through different points of view and answering questions, new possibilities can be identified; opening the mind to new ways of approaching challenges, sharing learning and strengthening relationships by building mutual respect, and most importantly, trust.

Michael Eisner, previous chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company(1984- 2005), advocated conflict as the reason behind the growth of the business from a vintage collection of animated films to the empire it is today. 

“This whole business starts with ideas, and we’re convinced that ideas come out of an environment of supportive conflict, which is synonymous with appropriate friction. We create a very loose environment where people are not afraid to speak their minds or be irreverent. They say what they think, and they are urged to advocate strongly for ideas. That can be very noisy. It can be hard, too, because when you’re loose, you say a lot of things, you challenge, you cajole, you provoke. Uninhibited discussion gets ideas out there so that we can look at them and make them better or just get rid of them if they don’t work”.

This worked for Disney as their culture meant that there was no fear of failure. Fun and entertainment is what they do and their creative process ensures this is allowed to happen; even when times are hard, Eisner believes work should be fun and exciting.

Here are our golden rules for conflict situations, making sure they are handled with style, confidence and, most of all, achieve resolution and, ultimately, success:

1.       Pre-empt conflict by thinking ahead and putting contingencies in place

2.       Communicate well throughout so there are no surprises

3.       Take the emotion out; stick to the facts; explaining the pros and cons clearly

4.       Think things through properly; plan what your desired outcome will look like and how this would sit with the other party – imagine yourself looking in on the discussion to be able to see both perspectives

5.       Ask the right questions and listen fully to the responses; be prepared to adjust your position once you have the information

6.       Work through the options instead; taking a flexible view

7.       Believe there is always a resolution and compromise to be reached

8.       Avoid taking anything personally; this is a major contributory factor to finding resolution

9.       Take a break if necessary to regroup, think, clear your head

10.    Go in to any situation looking for harmony and compromise

Above all, it is vital to ensure that your company culture allows for creative and positive conflict. It is through accepting that it is necessary as a part of growth and change; preparing for it, and handling it the right way that you will stop it becoming a negative in the workplace and start using it to achieve success. 

Have you any examples of where conflict has enabled success?

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