By Goke Ilesanmi
I decided to address this topic this week, given the ravaging effects of the conflict currently engulfing our political landscape on personal empowerment and organisational and national development. The need to address the crisis becomes imperative following the trademark of “slow motion” that the current government is now accorded just within one month of being in charge. The current All Progressives Congress (APC) and National Assembly crisis has heightened our impatience and created impression of national standstill as opposed to the immediate change acceleration expected.
The fact is that team conflict is inevitable when people interact and it is important that we know how to handle it. Azriel Winnett, a relationship management expert says, “But when handled properly, conflict need not drive the parties further apart. On the contrary, it could bring them closer together.” This means the APC can still come out of the current crisis stronger if it handles its affairs properly.
It is a truism that only very few situations are as disheartening as belonging to a team experiencing conflict. This is because conflict disrupts productivity and leads to frustration just as being experienced currently in our national life. It is instructive that there are no quick fixes for this. There are typically many reasons for team conflict. The desire to make one’s feelings known is the first step towards solutions. In conflict, each person has his or her story and people tend to see themselves as either the innocent victim or perhaps the righteous hero.
First step, action teams and membership
Irrespective of the level of the conflict, the first step in conflict management is simply to deal with it. There are two key concepts here: sensitivity and willingness to resolve the situation. Those who have their eyes, ears, and minds open will see what others do not. Having a good sense of your surroundings and associates is the best way to recognise when and how conflict arises. The willingness to act intelligently and decisively is equally important. While many are contented to watch, wait and wonder, effective professionals get involved and solve problems rather than let them simmer.
When teams or organisations first encounter a problem that they need to solve it in order to grow, they have to find out how to get the right information on the problem, how to come up with solution options and how to implement the selected solution. Action teams can perform this task because they are well-structured groups meant to address management problems. If you truly want positive change in your team or organisation, then adopt the action-team concept. The team will normally meet for four to six weeks, concentrating on just a single problem. Meetings should be held once a week and limited to one hour. At the end of each meeting, if needed, assignments are given to team members to complete before the next meeting. This keeps everyone actively involved in solving the problem.
The action team normally consists of four to six people, and each member should have some stake in the assigned problem, but it can be peripheral. If the problem happens to deal with inventory in an organisation for instance, you may have people from shipping, manufacturing, inventory management, purchasing and accounting since they each deal with inventory in one way or the other. What you do not want is a team made up entirely of the responsible department, in this case, inventory management. Team members should come from a variety of levels, not just from management. During team activities, all team members should be considered to be on the same level, rather than on their level in the organisation outside the team. In an action team, each member is equal—there is no rank in the team.
When it comes to the roles that people will hold in the team, the first one to fill is that of the team leader. This is the person who must keep the meetings moving forward and ensure that all members are involved. The focus should be to look forwards to solutions rather than rehashing problems once they have been clearly identified. The team leader must also be prepared to hold members accountable for their performance when necessary. When choosing a team leader, select someone who has emotional intelligence and reputation for high performance. Another critical position in the team is that of the secretary. This person is responsible for capturing the meeting proceedings. These written minutes and assignments should be distributed to everybody in the team not later than 24 hours after the meeting so that everyone can know his or her tasks for that week. The secretary can be selected by the leader at the first team meeting.
Progress and procedure
To start the problem-solving process with an action team, choose a problem. Ensure that you carefully word your “problem to be solved” so that there is a clear understanding of the expected results of your action team. Then send out an e-mail to all selected members of the team, requesting their participation in the team. At the first meeting, you should brief team members on the importance of their assistance in the team, noting that it is just as important, if not even more than their normal responsibilities.
You can easily solve the problem by having a schedule. The process should typically follow this outline: Week one involves clearly defining the problem and researching the issues and related data. This may include figuring out cost items and looking at different, possible solutions. Week two is used to review the issues and the data, identifying new or modified procedures, and to identify updates or changes required to reporting systems. You want to track how the changes are affecting the business, so you need to establish some kind of measure to monitor. Week three is used to finalise the new procedures through group interaction. In other words, the team is starting to establish written procedures on new, required actions. Week four culminates with the final draft of all new procedures and an implementation of the plan. The result should be a new standard operating procedure and training on how to use the new process that is being created.
Deploying interpersonal skills
One of the solutions to conflict is possession of a reservoir of interpersonal skills. The good news is that there are several concrete things you can do to improve your interpersonal skills and become closer to your colleagues. One of them is to create an environment that encourages others to work together. You should also take a step beyond simply bringing people together and become someone who resolves conflicts when they arise.
Another one is to pay close attention to both what you say and how you say it. The good news is that we can develop these skills with minimal efforts. Emotional intelligence is also very critical. Organisations emphasise this and other social skills because they want people who will work well in a team and are able to communicate effectively with colleagues, customers and others. Interpersonal skills are not just important in the workplace, our personal and social lives can also benefit from better interpersonal skills. People with interpersonal skills are usually seen as confident, charismatic and calm.
Team conflict is inevitable when people interact. However, it is important that we know how to handle it and get the best out of it so that an atmosphere of peace can be restored.
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GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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