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Team Conflict: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

November 20th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

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Conflict on teams is inevitable. Yet when managed effectively, it can actually be a good thing. New ideas are born; relationships are deepened through the airing and resolution of differences; teams grow stronger. When you are a leader in the midst of conflict, however, and attempting to deal with it while juggling everything else, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Here are 5 tips for managing team conflict effectively.

Be self-aware. Understanding your leadership strengths and how you react under stress is essential to handling conflict in a constructive manner. Often our positive traits can be perceived as negative when we are overextended. For example, if you tend to set the bar high for yourself and others, this may be perceived as an unreasonable demand for perfection by a team that is struggling with workload or other internal issues. If your strength is leading through people, when stressed you may spend too much time trying to make sure everyone is happy rather than focusing on the collective team goals.
Know your team. The best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement (and potentially conflict with) each other will help you lay the groundwork for effective conflict resolution. Build team awareness and appreciation of different styles, and provide opportunities for productive interactions and mutual understanding.
Make the time to just listen. When a deadline is looming, and the team can’t seem to get past a conflict barrier, you may be tempted, as the leader, to force an end to the issue and just push your position through. Don’t. Make time to listen to all sides so you can get to the core of the issue and help the team develop a solution.
Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages open communication and fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions.
Chart the way forward. Embrace the “lessons learned” from the bumps on the journey, refocus on the goals and move forward.

Want to learn more about your leadership style and the styles of your team for more effective conflict resolution? Contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.

Till next time,

Karen

Communication, conflict resolution, Leadership, Teams

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Leading Virtual Teams – Tips for Success

November 8th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

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If you’re a leader, chances are that at least a portion of your team is working remotely, or for that matter, in another part of the world. Increased globalization and advances in technology have changed the way we work, with some teams never actually being in the same room together. While virtual teams have many benefits – an expanded talent pool, reduced office space requirements, the ability for employees to work from anywhere – they are not without their challenges. Especially for leaders.

A 2016 study by RW3, LLC, a cultural training service, Trends in Global Virtual Teams, found that some of the biggest challenges for global teams were: colleagues who do not participate, pace of decision making, and different role expectations held by team members. The study also found that the biggest challenge to productivity was the lack of face-to-face communication, which respondents said impacted managing conflict, establishing trust and building relationships. All important components for team success.

Leading virtual teams, especially global teams, requires an additional set of leadership skills. Yet few leaders receive training that specifically prepares them for this role. According to the RW3 study, while 74% of respondents had received formal leadership training, only 34% had received global leadership training. Likewise, although 85% of respondents said they work on virtual teams, only 22% said they had received training to increase their productivity on virtual teams. Clearly, there’s a development opportunity here.

In the meantime, here are some tips for leading virtual teams effectively.

Be engaged and available. Team members working from a distance, whether it’s in a home office in the US or from a global location, can feel isolated. Engage with individual team members on a regular basis to ask how things are going and to provide support. Be available to them when they have concerns, ideas, or just need to talk.

Leverage video technology. Use videoconferencing, Skype or any other tools available to you to allow team members to see each other. This is especially important when the team is forming, and when critical issues and/or decisions need to be discussed. Also consider having a team site where members names, locations, role and images are posted.

Create ground rules for virtual meetings. In our ever-connected, multi-tasking world it’s hard to keep people focused on one task, especially if they’re out of sight. Agree on ground rules up front, such as “cell phones off,” “one person speaks at a time,” etc. Distribute the agenda prior to the meeting and send out a recap afterward. Factor some time into each meeting for team members to have open discussion and to get to know each other better.

Establish communication guidelines. Create a process for regular communication, expected response time, and how issues will be prioritized. Encourage team members to use video or phone calls to work out issues or when information may need clarification. Remember, email is one-way communication. Picking up the phone (or Skype!) can go a long way in building trust and developing relationships.

Respect and rotate time zones. Be sure that everyone knows where their team members are located and their respective time zones. Establish a “best time to call” list for intra-team communications. Rotate time zones for team meetings so one person isn’t always the early-riser or later-worker.

Practice cultural sensitivity. Minimize misunderstandings by providing cultural training to all team members. Create a team environment that welcomes diversity of thought, backgrounds, experience and communication style. Provide opportunities for team members to educate each other about cultural nuances.

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." – Henry Ford

Till next time,
Karen

Communication, Leadership, Teams, Virtual teams

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