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Intervention and Conflict Resolution Training – Navigating Challenges in Meetings

Steps of Conflict Resolution
February 28, 2024 7:30 am

Building Consensus: Steps for Conflict Resolution in Meetings

Meetings are a melting pot of different personalities, ideas, and objectives. In the professional world, the ability to facilitate and navigate through conflict in meetings is a critical skill for leadership and team cohesion. When conflicts arise, they can either paralyze, progress or propel the team forward. The key lies in effective conflict resolution strategies that not only resolve disputes but also build consensus and strengthen team dynamics.

What is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is a pivotal skill in professional development, essential for managers and supervisors. It’s a learned skill that evolves with experience and intention.

Conflict resolution involves resolving issues or problems between two or more parties. It’s not just about finding a quick fix; it’s about fostering an environment where all voices are heard and respected.

Conflict, while often viewed negatively, can be a catalyst for innovation and change if managed effectively. Here’s how professionals can build consensus and resolve conflicts in meetings, ensuring a productive environment that fosters collaboration and collective decision-making.

The Benefits of Effective Conflict Resolution

Effective conflict resolution at work has numerous benefits:

  • Stress Reduction: It minimizes workplace stress, allowing employees to work more efficiently.
  • Retention Improvement: It creates a safer and more supportive work environment, encouraging employees to stay longer with the company.
  • Better Relationships: It leads to stronger relationships, as conflicts are handled constructively.

Steps of Conflict Resolution

Here’s how to handle disputes effectively in nine structured steps:

Step 1. Recognize the Signs of Conflict Early

Before a conflict escalates, there are often signs. These can include a lack of commitment to a win/win outcome, absence of norms or rules of conduct, and ineffective interpersonal communication. Recognizing these early can prevent a full-blown dispute.

Example: If team members start forming cliques and communication breaks down, it’s time to intervene.

Step 2. Establish Clear Norms and Rules of Conduct

Setting clear norms and rules of conduct at the beginning of the meeting can prevent conflicts from arising.

Example: “Let’s agree to focus on the ‘we’ position, considering what’s best for the team and the project.”

Step 3: Identify the Source of Conflict

Understanding the root cause is crucial. Begin by gathering as much information as possible about the cause of the conflict. Use open-ended questions to delve deeper, such as, “What do you feel led to this situation?” or “Can you trace back to when this started?”

Employ a series of probing questions to uncover the root of the issue, such as:

  • “When did you feel upset?”
  • “Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?”
  • “How did this incident begin?”
  • “I’ve noticed that we’ve revisited this topic several times without reaching a decision. Let’s explore why this is happening.”

Step 4: Understand the Underlying Issues

Look beyond the immediate incident to understand underlying issues. Ask, “What do you think is really happening here?” This helps to uncover the real triggers behind the conflict.

Do not make allegations, describe what you see without attributing motives. This non-judgmental approach prevents defensiveness and opens the floor to objective discussion.

Example: “I’ve noticed that we’ve revisited this topic several times without reaching a decision. Let’s explore why this is happening.”

Step 5: Find Common Ground

Discuss potential solutions and highlight their benefits, not just to the individuals involved but to the organization as a whole. This step is about building consensus and collaboration. This could involve addressing unresolved matters that may have occurred long before the current conflict. Ask questions that prompt deeper reflection:

  • “What do you think happened here?”
  • “When do you think the problem between you first arose?”

This step is about shifting focus from the symptoms to the cause, from personal attacks back to the underlying issues.

Step 6: Request Solutions

After understanding each party’s viewpoint, encourage them to suggest how the situation could be improved. This involves active listening and paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. Facilitate a constructive dialogue by asking:

  • “How can you make things better between you?”

Your role is to redirect the conversation from blame to collaboration, from conflict to constructive resolution.

Step 7: Encourage Solutions from the Parties Involved

As a mediator, it’s crucial to allow both parties to express their perspectives. This not only aids in understanding the situation but also shows your neutrality. Acknowledge what you hear with simple affirmations like “I see” or “uh huh,” to validate their feelings and encourage a full disclosure.

Invite each party to propose solutions. Effective questioning might include, “What changes do you think could resolve this?” Active listening is key here.

Step 8: Reach an Agreement

Facilitate an agreement that both parties can support. Some conflicts may even require a written agreement with clear actions and timelines.

Step 9: Create Closure

End the conflict resolution process by summarizing the outcomes and establishing an action plan.

Example: “We’ve agreed to assign a timekeeper for future meetings to manage our agenda effectively.”

The Thomas-Kilmann Model

Understanding different conflict resolution styles can be beneficial. The Thomas-Kilmann Model outlines five common responses to conflict: avoiding, collaborating, accommodating, compromising, and competing. Recognizing these styles can aid in navigating and resolving conflicts more effectively.

Maintaining a Productive Meeting Environment

To maintain a productive meeting environment, facilitators should:

  • Call for a Time-Out: When tensions are high, a break can help de-escalate emotions.
  • Slow Down the Process: Take the time to fully understand all perspectives and create a shared understanding.
  • Make Interventions: Keep the meeting on track by addressing disruptive behaviors promptly and tactfully. If the group veers off course, bring the focus back to the meeting’s purpose.
  • Establish Clear Norms: Set rules of conduct to prevent conflicts from arising.
  • Manage Individual Behaviors: Address disruptive behaviors individually, without causing embarrassment.

Follow Through to Create Resilient Teams

Conflict resolution is about transforming disputes into opportunities for growth and consensus. By following these steps, professionals can lead teams that are not just conflict-competent but also resilient and innovative.

Conflict resolution is not about suppressing disagreements but about harnessing the potential of diverse viewpoints. By following these steps and strategies, facilitators can transform conflicts into opportunities for consensus-building and innovation. As professionals, developing these skills is essential for leading teams that are resilient, adaptive, and aligned with their goals.

Improve Your Facilitation Skills

Interested in enhancing your conflict resolution skills? Consider enrolling in our specialized workshop and course:

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Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!