There’s always talk of leadership in the workplace as if it’s this mystical cure all that magically unifies your workforce. The truth is leadership requires a very specific skill, conflict resolution to be precise. Your effectiveness as a leader directly relates to your ability to identify, address, and resolve conflicts between the groups following your direction.

If you make it a point to avoid conflict, leadership isn’t for you. Now, I’m not saying seek it out, but the best leaders understand that discord is bound to occur, so they remain steadfast with their direction and guidance to see their teams through the inevitable rough patches.

It takes more than an ability to recognize conflict; the strongest workplace leaders understand the nature of disagreements. They need to know what causes conflict when it’s on the horizon, and the quickest, most effective way to resolve it. As a leader, it’s supremely important to be proactive, rather than reactive.

The leaders who specialize in crisis management routinely implement a line of thought that finds its birthplace in sports (even if they never knew it had a name). The concept is called KYP (Know Your Personnel), and it’s one of the most important practices a leader can employ, regardless of their industry. KYP is all about understanding the tendencies of your team, so you can better predict the way they will respond to certain stimuli.

As you look to implement this approach, keep the following in mind:

  • Your team is not a single unit; it is the sum of several unique pieces (each individual teammate).
  • There is no “one size fits all” method to leadership.
  • What works for one employee might not work for another. People have different motivations, they respond to pressure and stress differently.

So what does KYP have to do with conflict resolution? Everything. Arguments in the workplace stem from miscommunication in one form or another. Remember, your business is the culmination of multiple parts attempting to work in concert. Priorities and objectives are drastically different, depending on the person you ask and the department they work in.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to understand what’s important to your employees both professionally and personally. This is where KYP comes in. If you understand what drives the members of your team and conversely what causes individuals to shut down, you can learn which strings to pull for optimum performance.

In the workplace, conflicts tend to linger if not addressed immediately. If emotions turn sour and resolutions aren’t reached they can drastically derail your team’s ability to work together.

Conflict resolution isn’t an abstract concept. Developing a solid resolution plan can definitely help your team members feel like even when tempers flare, the structure remains for them to fall back on.

Here are a few guidelines leaders can implement to help deal with conflict when it does rear its ugly head at work:

  • Define Acceptable Behavior. Creating a framework for decision-making will help avoid conflicts. Clearly define job descriptions. When people know what their responsibilities are, expectations become more realistic.
  • Address Conflicts Directly. Make note of potential conflict sources and proactively intervene in a balanced and consistent manner. Do not let negative feelings stemming from disagreements fester. As a leader, you’re responsible for people management (and sometimes that means ego massaging).
  • Remember the Big Picture. How important is the current conflict to your overall business objective? Not every disagreement requires an executive mandate. You need to trust your team to handle the small stuff. Keep aware of the squabbles, but give them the freedom to sort things out until they escalate.

Conflicts happen, arguments arise, and tempers will flare at work. That being said, every clash can be viewed as a learning experience. The best leaders act swiftly, hear their teams out, know their personnel, and act as beacons of clarity when things get murky during discrepancies.

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