Manage conflict in a group by using Ground Rules to stay focused on your mission

To manage conflict with a group or team, we must be able to put some kind of consistent structure or rules into place. Many good leaders and managers forget to do this and end up with some very unproductive meetings.

To work together effectively, team members must be able to seek the best solution to a problem through communication. This can trigger disagreements. As a good manager, you don’t want disagreements to escalate into unpleasant conflicts so you need to manage conflict. However, you don’t want your team’s members to fail to seek different solutions to a problem because they think such action will cause conflicts. Failure to express different opinions and defend them can lead to the group thinking the same way, which can put an end to creative thinking among individuals.

You can confront the team members in the hope of getting them to recognize how their behavior is interfering with the team’s mission. This can work if team members report directly to you but not so effective if it is made up of individuals come from different parts of the organization.

One of the best things to do is refocus the group’s attention on the ground rules members agreed to use to achieve its goal and on the goal itself.

So it is important to set these ground rules on day 1. Allow the participants to come up with rules that will allow them to not only manage conflict, but to be productive.

By understanding our values and assessing our behaviors, we can create a “safe environment” where people are comfortable speaking freely about their opinions, ideas and feelings in a team. And by identifying how we will interact with each other, team members recognize the importance of understanding the individual needs of others. You can ask the group’s members to consider what behaviors will detract from the team’s mission and what behaviors will contribute to its achievement. How will we handle disagreements/conflicts among us? By refocusing the group’s attention on its ground rules and the importance of the mission, helps put an end to unpleasant behavior associated with disagreements yet allows for sharing different viewpoints from team members.

A ground rule related to disagreements, for instance, might be: The team will allow every person the chance to talk, and will hear out other team members without any interruption. Another ground rule might be: The focus of the team will be on its mission; the group will not be distracted by side issues or conversations. Any group member can bring the group back to the ground rules if he/she thinks a ground rule was violated. Finally, you need to set up a ground rule that relates to how decisions will be reached. For instance, you might all agree that disagreements will be resolved by voting, consensus or alignment.

It is very important that the team give their input when forming ground rules. This will support your actions as leader and will ensure member support in the event that a difference gets out of hand and two or more team members bring personalities into their disagreement. In summary, to effectively manage conflict in a group, don’t forget to form good solid ground rules that will allow the team to stay focused on it’s goals/mission.

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