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Leadership Blog: From Conflict to Conversation

by Jo Ann Stevens, ABR, GRI, PMN

Jo AnnPeople do not come with warning labels indicating personality traits. Too bad, as that would help us anticipate conflict and more easily work through it. Regardless of your personality, it is just a matter of time until you find yourself in a situation with another person that could evolve into a conflict. And when it arises within your local chapter, it can be particularly difficult because no one wants organizational conflict to spill over and turn into business relationship conflict. So what is the right course of action to handle conflict in your chapter?

First, take a deep breath and look at the BIG picture. Remember that in Women's Council, we are all volunteers, giving of our time and talents to better the organization. We all have clients to take care of along with personal responsibilities, such as family, that require our time and attention. So before you criticize someone for their failure to meet a deadline, failure to communicate, or simply failure to handle a task the way you might have done it, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, while most people tend to shy away from conflict, it is normal and can be healthy. In fact, many experts see conflict as a vital ingredient to organizational success. The most effective teams are those in which members feel comfortable voicing disagreement. A culture that supports differences in thought is more likely to spur innovation, creativity and better decision-making.

Keeping both these points in mind will help to lay the groundwork for a resolution where everyone feels their interests were heard and that they had an opportunity to influence the outcome. Of course, at the end of the day, there does need to be a resolution. With that in mind, following are some tips to help resolve conflict in a way to move the organization forward and be respectful of everyone involved.

• Separate “people” from the “problem”
• Identify the issue/problem and restate it so everyone understands
• Set the issue or problem in the appropriate context
• Evoke accepted guidelines for conflict resolution
• Focus on and understand “interests” not “positions”
• Agree to objective criteria to evaluate the best solution
• Develop solutions
• Don’t presuppose the answer – be open to any outcome

During this process ask non-threatening questions to:
• Open up discussions and new possibilities/solutions
• Keep the focus on the issues at hand
• Seek to better understand feelings and opinions
• Help get closer to the real issue or root cause of the conflict
• Avoid putting others on the defensive

In most cases, approaching conflict using the above-mentioned tactics will facilitate good conversation among all involved. When needed, call on a third party – someone who has no stake in the outcome – to facilitate the conversation. More times than not, strong consensus decisions will be made – particularly when we remember to keep the interest of the organization before our own at all times.

Jo Ann Stevens, ABR, GRI, PMN, is the 2016 Recording Secretary for Women's Council. She is also part of the Lane Real Estate Team located in Sugar Land, TX. Jo Ann is a native Texan and a licensed REALTOR® for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of the University of Houston and worked in the title industry for many years, managing offices across the country.

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