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5 Ways to Lead Your Project Team through Conflict

Despite it sounding counterintuitive, conflict can be really good for your team. Opposing ideologies can be used to help improve a project overall. This conflict model is the basis of American democracy: Two opposing ideologies use their differences to create solutions to benefit the people as a whole (Editor’s Note: maybe). But conflict needs to be handled carefully in order to get the best results. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, project leadership coach Susanne Madsen uses the Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict to explain five ways to approach conflict:

  1. Competing
  2. Accommodating
  3. Avoiding
  4. Collaborating
  5. Compromising

Conflict Styles and How They Clash

Each of the five styles is driven by the willingness (or lack thereof) of an individual to be assertive and cooperative in a conflict scenario. The first style, competing, is when you would be assertive and uncooperative. You are willing to put forth your own opinion and stance on an issue, but you won’t budge on changing that stance. You might even abuse your position of power to enact your views on the topic to your team, which would ultimately disengage them.

The second style Madsen discusses is the accommodating style, which is passive and cooperative. It means that you’re overly likely to acquiesce to what other people want, even if it means abandoning your own ideas in the process. This can lead to resentment later on down the line, of others and of yourself. As a result, being too accommodating can mean that you lack confidence in yourself. The third style, avoiding, offers a similar issue, except it is both uncooperative and unassertive. It ultimately tries to brush all problems under the rug, which sounds great in the short term but will likely only make the problems even worse later.

Madsen goes on to explain collaborating, which is the inverse of avoidance:

When you collaborate you attempt to work with others to find a solution that satisfies all concerns. In order to achieve such a win-win outcome you will have to dig into the detail of the issue and identify the underlying needs and wants of everyone involved.

Looking at the example of agile and waterfall, a true win-win solution could be one where the proponents of waterfall get their need for a well-defined end-deliverables met, whilst the proponents of agile get their need for iterative development met. It’s only by exploring disagreement and examining the underlying needs that true collaboration is possible. When we use the collaborative style we are open to creative solutions and are able to turn conflict into something positive.

The most moderate of these options is compromising, which involves much less work than the collaborating option. This option can help satisfy both sides, but it may result in the final idea not being fully functional, so exercise caution in using this approach.

You can view the original post here: http://www.esi-intl.co.uk/blogs/pmoperspectives/index.php/how-do-you-lead-your-project-team-through-a-conflict/

About Austin J. Gruver

Austin is a Staff Writer for AITS. He has a background in professional writing from York College.

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