No doubt you’ve got members on your team that you’d characterize as “oily” and a few you’d called “watery;” and we all know that oil and water don’t mix. What you may not know is that with the right conflict management strategies you can create a kind of “emulsion,” which scientists describe as the suspension of one liquid in another. We describe it as maximizing the best traits in each of your team members so that your
Oil and water workers work well together and make the whole team better.
One of the best examples of the oil and water analogy is the disparity in work styles between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Not only is there the obvious generation gap; there are also cultural, social, and experiential chasms to be bridged. Effective conflict management strategies not only build bridges; they open windows of understanding through more effective communication.
One of the best conflict management strategies involves the recognition and validation of conflicting points of view. Looking for points of commonality can douse a fiery exchange. But finding ways to capitalize on diverging viewpoints can spark a flame of creativity that can lead to collaboration.
In a crucial sales negotiation, for example, the Millennial rep may have just the right combination of enthusiasm and technological savvy to open the dialogue with a prospective client to get them fully engaged. His or her web-based presentation may have all the bells and whistles that particular client is looking for.
When the time comes to close the deal, in comes the Baby Boomer. At this point, the technological dazzle may be less compelling. Here the veteran of the team may provide the seasoned insight required to fully understand what’s at stake for that client’s bottom line. Patience and finesse may prove to be as valuable as youthful exuberance.
Young whipper-snapper vs. old codger? No! What we have here is a sale! A success! A productive partnership between two teammates with different roles to play and different approaches toward one common goal. Neither threatens or undermines the other. They complement each other, and in so doing, complete the task at hand.
Conflict management strategies that work are the ones that start out recognizing different roles and approaches and support both. Because ultimately, the end game is not to prove who’s right or wrong or who’s better or worse. The end game is winning the client and making the deal. Communicating your expectations clearly can ensure that both players clearly understand the roles they are to play. In addition to clearly delineating your goals and their roles, be certain that they both know how much their contributions are valued–these are important first steps in preempting potential conflicts.