Diffusing Conflict By Switching Into “Question Mode”

Mike Harden | | Building Relationships, Operating with Vision

Mike Harden Question Mode

As CEOs and managers, a large portion of our day is taken up dealing with people. When it comes to resolving conflict in the workplace – which is not always a bad thing – I find a useful strategy to take is to stop making statements and start asking questions.

If a member of your team is passionate about an issue, idea or initiative, and it is causing discord, try going into “Question Mode.” Instead of pushing back and exacerbating the conflict, ask questions intended to make that individual think about his or her position.

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Helping People Get Perspective

Let’s say, for instance, that a member of the team is adamant that a product be launched by a certain date. He’s spent two years developing it, and he is invested in its success. “We need to get this thing out by this date. That’s it. Nothing else is going to work, and delays will kill us.” Try asking:

  • Why is this date so important?
  • What happens if we miss it?
  • What are the repercussions for the organization?
  • What would it cost to wait versus launching on that date?
  • How would it impact our customers?

This series of probing questions forces him to articulate his position. Now, instead of basing a decision on emotion, you’re drilling down into facts. As a leader, you can weigh the answers and, if your team member’s arguments are based in facts, say, “Yes, you’re absolutely right. We need to make that date.” The decision, then, is based on an objective consideration of what is best for the company.

Diffusing The Urgency

What often ends up happening, however, is that the “worst-case” scenario that your conflicted employee dreads is not as bad or as destructive as initially thought. The emotional tie to the situation creates a sense of urgency that is not supported by the facts.

When people are forced to think about a position from an objective point of view and clearly communicate it, they begin to see the real answers taking shape themselves. Maybe their emotional tie is what got ahead of them; maybe they were right but needed to step away and look objectively at the issue.

When conflict threatens to derail a decision, process or situation, stop arguing. Stop pushing back, and start asking questions. When you ask questions, you get answers.

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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