In every good leader, there’s a peacemaker.
When there’s chaos in your organization and you’re the mediator, it’s important that you’re able to guide all parties to an agreement without showing any favoritism.
In real life, conflicts don’t just arise every once in a while. They happen all the time, says Jerome Lecat, CEO at software solutions Scality. In fact, most of a leader’s responsibility is to maintain peace and deal with human behaviors and interactions. In those crucial, often heated moments, tensions run rampant and stakes are high. How do you extinguish flames while keeping everyone calm, collected, and satisfied?
Below are a few pointers to keep in mind when chaos erupts:
If you’re going to be the neutral party during conflicts, then you must first win the trust of the people around you. If not, you won’t be able to get people to think logically, because they’ll detect a threat coming from you.
Good leaders understand how strategic they need to be when getting to know the people around them. Lecat suggests having a lot of knowledge about everyone by visiting them individually. Get to know who they are or what they want from your organization. That way, when conflicts do arise, you’ll have a better understanding of where each party is coming from. What drives the way they feel? What background do they come from that affects the way they feel? When leaders are able to distinguish between identity or interest-based conflicts, they’re better able to come up with the best approach to finding a sustainable solution.
When getting to know your colleagues, it’s important to get to know their communication styles, says Deb LaMere, vice president of employee engagement at human capital management technology company Ceridian. Often, conflicts arise because of a lack of understanding. If this happens, it’s important that you’re able to recognize it quickly.
“A lot of time, it always starts with a miscommunication or a misunderstanding,” says LaMere. “When you understand each other’s styles with communicating with each other, it goes a long way not only in communication but also teamwork and partnership.”
Once you’ve determined everyone’s communication style, it’s easier to understand what they’re really saying. What is the real conflict and what do they want from the outcome? Do they just want to vent or does a decision need to be made?
If it’s the latter, make sure you take the time to hear both sides. Lecat typically has both parties defend their arguments in front of the other so that they can hear the other’s counterargument.
“It needs to be an open conversation,” he says. “Obviously, each party will be passionate about their point and will try to convince me. And when people are trying to convince someone else, sometime they are using arguments that are not quite valid.”
It’s your job as a leader to detect these invalid arguments.
In these conversations, never cut someone off. This way, when you make your decision at the end, everyone feels like they’ve been listened to. Once you decide you’ve gotten all the facts, come back to both parties and explain how you’ve come to your conclusion.
It can be challenging to figure out what people are really saying, compared to what they actually say. As a mediator, your job is to focus on the real issue and find clues that can lead to sustainable solutions.
During this time, both parties may bring forth additional issues, concerns, and problems that you’ll have to ignore if they’re not relevant. What are the clues in the parties’ dialogue that can help you identify a workable solution? Keep arguments on track along the way.
Good leaders understand how important it is to cultivate peace and resolve conflict.
“It’s a tough job,” says Lecat, “but I think being neutral is about being committed to facts and totally committed to the company, rather than the individuals.”
In short, if you want to prevent rivalries, you’ll need to not only be neutral in your decision-making, but also appear neutral as you’re making those decisions.