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Switching out the CEO caused disruption and lowered morale within the company — this was the fourth CEO change in less than two years.

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It also made for an awkward transition period for the leadership team and the board chair, which will likely compromise their ability to collaborate in the future. Obviously, there are no guarantees that a candid discussion would have led to a different outcome.

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But other arrangements might have prevented the anger, distrust, and disruption that ensued. This was certainly an extreme and unusual case of avoiding difficult conversations. The truth is that managers and employees avoid all kinds of tough situations, rationalizing their actions along the way, and end up making tensions worse. Perhaps the best we can do is become more aware of our tendency to rationalize it and practice dealing with tough situations so we feel more prepared when they arise. Just be prepared for some answers you might not like.

The bottom line is that none of us like being in emotionally difficult situations. Learning how to deal with them more openly and easily, however, might be one of the best things you can do to improve your own leadership and create more value for your company. Difficult conversations.

Ron Ashkenas. Partner Center. However, conflict management is one of the most difficult soft skills that someone can master and develop. Conflict is the driving force for change. Good conflict produces new ideas, solves continuous problems, gives opportunity for people to expand skills, allows creativity, and improves performance. Bad conflict lowers team energy or morale, reduces productivity, prevents job accomplishment, creates destructive behavior, and fosters poor performance.

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In addition, conflict can be warranted or unwarranted. Conflict resolution is a six-step process: 1 Define problem, 2 gather data, 3 analyze data, 4 choose best solution, 5 implement solution, and 6 continue to refine the solution. Dealing with conflict effectively allows team members to master and develop one of the most difficult soft skills.

Our ability to understand, communicate, and influence others depends in large part on having a very good understanding of ourselves—how we prefer to interact and relate with others, our interpersonal strengths, what motivates or de-motivates us, and what actually happens to us when we are under conflict and stress. Understanding strengths, our limitations, and ourselves helps us to be more effective when communicating with others.

The most crucial impact of this is to reduce conflict.


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Each one of these different types of inventories has its own particular strengths and limitations. One important key point is to differentiate between a motivational model and a behavioral model. Conflict also is part of our lives. Based on research by Thamhain and Wilemon , there are seven major sources of project conflict and team disagreements are alphabetically :.

But what exactly is conflict? For example:. According to Thamhain and Wilemon , the seven major sources of project conflict and team disagreements are sorted by significance are : Exhibit 1. There are five conflict strategies: avoiding, collaborating, competing, accommodating, and compromising:.

Comparing the conflict strategies from the one side and the conflict resolutions from the other side, we have the following two-dimensions table:. The Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument was developed by K. Thomas and R. Kilmann , This instrument compares the assertiveness of the conflict strategy against the cooperativeness. According to Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument:.

Strength deployment inventory SDI was developed by Dr. Elias Porter in and is based on relational awareness theory RAT. Therefore, we can be grouped based on which of these values we use to build up our senses and self-worth. In addition, we have two sets of perceptual circuitry that are measured by SDI:. So, some of the advantages of SDI include, but are not limited to the following:.

Step 1. Understand the nature of the conflict

Using SDI, we can measures the MVS of a person when things are going well and their conflict sequence when the person is in conflict or stress. This is very useful tool for project managers to use it to understand their own style and preferences—then to recognize situations where borrowing another style would generate a better outcome.

In addition, it can be used to understand the style and preference of their stakeholders. The SDI is outcome oriented; it is telling us the reason behind a specific behavior.

As it was mentioned before, according to SDI, each one of us is a mixture of three motivational values:. So, how can we use the chief characteristics of each MVS? How can team members and stakeholders easily be categorized? How do we communicate better with team members and stakeholders in order to reduce conflict and built trust? Using these leadership styles, we can reduce conflict and improve cooperation between team members.

As far as we discover our stakeholder MVS, then we know how to communicate better with him or her. It is useful to know what they like and what they dislike: Exhibit 3. Reducing conflict will greatly improve team performance. Discovering the MVS style of our stakeholder can greatly increase the communication because we hear messages transmitted by others in our own way, which is interpreted by our own motivational value system.

Communicating with others and talking to them using their own needs—empathetic listening—allows us to build trust quickly and co-operate better. It allows the project manager to build a positive climate among the stakeholders, motivate the team members to perform better, and reduce conflicts. Thamhain, H.

Step 2. Encourage employees to work it out themselves

Conflict management in project life cycle. Sloan Management Review, Spring, 31— Thomas, K. MODE instrument.

Publisher Description

PM Network asked the project management community: how did a mentor help take your career to the next level? By Raghupathy, Shobhna There is a pronounced shift in the demands confronting organizational leadership, and these changes are a reflection of shifts in the global marketplace.