As managers and leaders, we are often faced with the challenge of managing multiple teams or team members with unique differences that have the potential to erupt in conflict or team tension. Some of these differences include varying backgrounds, ethnic diversity, intergenerational working, and conflicting personalities, work preferences, or points of view.
These differences are further compounded when managing in a hybrid or remote setting, where if messaging or email is the most frequently relied on form of communication, one’s message can be easily misunderstood or underlying intent misconstrued, resulting in internal conflict that is distracting from achieving business goals, slows progress, and makes work-life unpleasant.
Therefore it is critical to develop skills that enable pleasant collaboration and iron out any issues between team members. Here are three of the skills you need as a leader:
How do you quell existing tensions within your team? Developing robust conflict management skills is essential to ensuring fairness, understanding, and ease of communication. To approach internal conflict between team members, here are a few things you will want to bear in mind:
Interview each side of the argument individually, not to seek to take sides, but to gain a better understanding of the situation from their unique perspective. Demonstrate empathy for their point of view and ask them how certain actions or events made them feel. Maintain confidentiality when you interview the next person.
Sit both sides down for a meeting with you as a mediator. Sure, you could impose your authority as a manager, but it is much better to empower them to demonstrate empathy and resolve conflicts internally than for you to do it yourself.
Most misunderstandings could be resolved simply through clear and frequent communication, combined with active listening. Create clear channels for communication with you as their manager, and with each other, and encourage a culture of openness and transparency, especially for issues such as project delays or disapprovals. In team meetings, ensure everyone has a voice and is given ample time to contribute. You will need to carefully balance this in situations where one team member seems to have a more dominant voice, so that others do not cower into the shadows, feeling that their opinions are not valued or appreciated.
Lead by example and take the helm in demonstrating empathetic, clear, and confident communication. Instead of brushing everyone with the same stroke, adapt your communication style to each individual, and think about variables that could make communication more difficult, such as generational differences (for example if you’re Gen X and conversing with a Gen Z employee) and try to accommodate. If you set the precedent, your team will inevitably admire your standards and follow.
Particularly in a globalized work environment, being culturally sensitive is critical to your success as a manager or leader. Seek to understand and familiarize yourself with cultural and country-specific values, unique characteristics and behaviors, and nuances such as festivals, religious observances or holidays, ways of speaking, etc., and appreciate them. Recognize that these make up the strengths of your team, since they have varied contributions that are enriched by their personal backgrounds and experiences.
Ultimately, your success as a leader is measured by how effective your team is at achieving business goals. If you can’t lead diverse teams to work cohesively, not only will it impact the business, but it will reflect on you and negatively impact your leadership career as a whole. As we move towards a more diverse future of work, adapt to this future by recognizing that team diversity is your strength; they contribute a wealth of perspectives that enrich the company culture, turning what might be viewed as a liability into your strongest asset.
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