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Strategies For Optimal Team Functioning - How To Reduce Conflict At Work.    How well are your work teams functioning? Are they reaching their potential? Are they fighting and imploding? Or are they a business asset? As leader, what is your role in their success? All teams, even superbly functioning ones, have some conflict. Your job as leader is to assist them in surmounting these inevitable troubles. This article describes how to analyze the potential problems in your teams before they happen, and to devise plans and systems for successfully dealing with these normal issues before they become business liabilities. Your role as leader calls upon you to be a catalyst, orchestrator, cheerleader, counselor, coach, consultant and organizer. This article shows you how.    763 words.
The Mental Game Coach, Peak Performance Playbook

Strategies For Optimal Team Functioning

How To Reduce Conflict At Work

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California

Wouldn't it be nice if all the members of a team treated each other respectfully at all times, agreed on everything, knew and accepted their roles from the outset, had no conflict and no stress? That's a world most of us will never live in. In reality, after a team has its honeymoon period at the outset, the often untidy process of storming through the gritty details of leadership, purpose, traction, speed, roles, rules and regulations and all other housekeeping issues rears its head. This is part of the normal, unavoidable series of stages that all teams encounter. The four predictable, ordered, stages all teams go through are:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

The storming stage is aptly named. Here there is less than full and easy agreement, even on seemingly trivial matters. People are positioning for power, prestige and control. Often, they don't even know this. A normally amiable worker can be suddenly transformed into a grasping, maniacal power broker.

What are some signs that team conflict is in the air?

  1. Feelings of defensiveness.
  2. Inadequate and incomplete listening taking place.
  3. Innocent actions and comments are taken personally.
  4. Arrival and departure times are not sharp.
  5. Disagreements over trivial matters.
  6. Hidden agendas seem to be displayed.
  7. Power and control are coveted.
  8. Frustration is evident.
  9. Personal goals take priority over team goals.
  10. Lack of team commitment is public.

Allowing these issues to continue without addressing them is a formula for failure. These issues will continue until they either are solved, they make people quit the team, or the team itself implodes. Open, honest, direct and safe discussion around these issues is paramount. It's important NOT to frame these issues as "dysfunctional or negative" because ALL groups have them. ALL groups go through the storming phase. Learn to deal with this stage constructively and you will build a strong team that can handle even higher levels of stress in the future. Ignore, minimize or mishandle these issues now, and you are unwittingly building a team that can crack and splinter at the first, tiniest signs of stress. Teach and help your team learn excellent coping and problem-solving skills now, in a safer, less demanding, less business-critical environment, where mistakes are simply errors and not costly, business-harming tragedies.

As leader, you have the mandate to handle the storming phase sensitively so everyone retains their dignity and self-esteem. Leaving issues half solved or ignored just leads to having to deal with them later when they reappear...which they will. Tackle these issues now and help your team move past the storming phase and into the high-performance phase. Here are some suggestions for doing this.

14 Leadership Strategies for Managing Team Conflict

  1. Be sensitive to the needs, wants and conflicts your team is experiencing.
  2. Take seriously what people are saying and give people your full respect, even if the issue being complained about seems trivial. Even seemingly minor issues reflect inner needs the person has which need resolving within the team.
  3. Consider using an outside mediator, coach, consultant or facilitator to resolve particularly thorny issues.
  4. Tackle and achieve victory in at least one, simpler issue to gain traction and a sense of accomplishment and agreement.
  5. Maintain a positive, constructive problem-solving stance and do not allow whining and complaining beyond the initial discussion of the issue.
  6. Maximize people's strengths and minimize their weaknesses in a strategic manner to optimize team functioning.
  7. Realize you will not change personalities or styles people bring to the team, but you can work with them creatively.
  8. Set an example as a high-performing, crisply-communicating leader.
  9. Shift gears and wear the many hats of team-leading success, including leader, catalyst, orchestrator, cheerleader, counselor, coach, consultant and organizer.
  10. Ask what your role might be, if any, in potentially contributing to the conflict.
  11. Make sure you set a high-minded tone, one that does not allow for scapegoating, negativity, self-pity or lack of vision within the team.
  12. Encourage active discussion and respectful disagreement so creativity is fostered.
  13. Change and vary team job assignments to increase energy and interest.
  14. Use your best judgment when resolving team conflict, maintaining respect for the individual and keeping the best interests of the team in mind at all times.

Creating high-performing teams is an exciting, challenging endeavor. The potential for excellent business outcomes amplifies as you build your team. Be aware of the many predictable team pitfalls you will encounter and have solutions and systems ready to apply to them when they occur.

To learn more about how team building can help your organization reach its potential, visit Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach™ at www.mentalgamecoach.com/Programs/MentalGameOfTeamBuilding.html.

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association (www.mentalgamecoaching.com), an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.

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Reduce conflict at work  
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