Turn on the news and we are bound to hear about ever increasing global conflicts that seem beyond our control. As leaders of organizations, we do have control over conflict and how it escalates. We can control both how we manage it personally and with others we work with which increases morale, engagement and performance.

If you are genuinely a happy leader, there is a good chance your team is as well. If you or others are dragging conflict baggage behind you; those unresolved issues or politics, chances are happiness and engagement lacking.

This article outlines six simple steps in cleaning up conflict mess.

  1. Stop beating yourself up

We are human and therefore, not perfect. We all make mistakes and generally speaking, they are not as big as we think. Mistakes are a reminder of aliveness and authenticity. Too often we may self-deprecate which leads to stress, anxiety, perfectionism and a feeling of not being good enough.

If you ever feel this way as a leader, remind and empower yourself that you are great.  If you are in conflict with yourself, it could come across in how you lead others.

  1. Stop beating others up

If we beat ourselves up, which many of us do, we may feel entitled to a free access pass to beating others up over their “inadequacies”.

Who are we really to judge others? We don’t live in their body nor know what their life has entailed. Yet, we may see ourselves as the ones who have the answers for the woes of others. Appreciate others in your organization for who they are and welcome them in as someone who is valued.

  1. Know your way is only right for you

We have lived a lifetime in our shoes. Since birth our values, cultural beliefs, norms, experiences, family dynamics, and religion have informed how the world operates so we can survive it.  It is right for you.

Our survival mechanisms likely have nothing to do with another’s. It is important to limit how much we may be inferring our opinion on others. In doing this, we start causing connection that is genuine and caring rather than disconnection marred with possible judgements and assumptions.

  1. Let go of issues you have with others

In the era of video, we are inundated with the stories of others, told by another writer.

Some of us are writers and share mental biographies of others in our lives and claim that the story, issues, concerns and judgements we have about others are real for that person. Would they agree with your ‘mental video’?

It’s important that leaders share stories they may have about another with that person exclusively to gain clarity and perspective.  If not, it is kind of like reading someone’s autobiography but not letting the subject read it – when they happen to be the expert on themselves. Many issues we have with others could be due to a violation of our opinions or beliefs.

  1. Stop being a victim to others’ actions

We all have freedom of choice and that is one of our values in Canada. We exercise that at the ballot box, grocery stores and almost everywhere.

It is tougher to feel freedom of choice when there is a perceived violation from another on to us. Some of us easily jump into the pool of anger when we are offended by another’s actions rather than just letting it go. Why?

If feels good to be right and what they might have done was not right…in our opinion. People will say and do things and in all likelihood, they don’t mean it in the same way you interpreted it. Leaders who proactively resolve misinterpretations are those who quickly clean up mess so there is an efficient return to calm.

  1. Got something to say, say it

All of the above can be summed up in this last step. Don’t hold back. If you have issues with a co-worker, your boss, direct report, and so on, deal with it.

They likely don’t even know you have anything to say and are not worrying about what it is that you are hanging on to. It is your baggage so get clear with another on what you are carrying so you can drop it. Once a conflict is cleaned up, it magically disappears!

In practicing all these steps, your journey to team happiness will be free of baggage, and when conflict does arrive, you won’t pack it away. Leaders that focus on building relationships, understanding others and resolve conflict quickly, have more time to be with their high performance and happy team.

Glen Sollors | Senior Consultant
Kwela Leadership & Talent Management