Resolving conflict begins by understanding, clarifying, and confirming the purpose of the resolution being discussed. Effective conflict resolution depends on shared purpose. Competing purposes will lead to competing solutions.
When an appeal to common purpose fails, combine active listening with extensive challenges to guide the discussion. Lastly, appeal to the objectives being supported by the decisions, such as the project, program, business, unit, or enterprise objectives. Let’s look at each of these three steps in more detail.
I. Confirm Purpose
One burden on you, the facilitator, demands building consensus around the purpose of the decision and what it supports. You cannot afford to have a moving target if you want to build consensus. Not only do you need to make the group’s integrated purpose clear, it needs to be articulated and displayed. Use your Purpose Tool as a quick and effective means of building consensual purpose, in writing, with instantaneous visual feedback for all of your participants.
II. Active Listening
Active listening comprises four separate steps; namely:
- Make contact with the speaker, typically eye contact is leveraged to ensure the speaker is engaged,
- Absorb what is being said so that you can provide the entire group a summary of the individual’s contribution,
- Reflect what was said to ensure the speaker understands what they said. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHY their contribution was made. Re-state how their response relates to the question at hand (frequently it is best to provide their reflection by writing it down on large Post-It paper), and then
- Confirm that their content, as reflected, is correct.
At least one person in any given group does not listen or hear what another person says. Some people don’t even listen to themselves. Reflection provides the most essential part of effective, active listening. However, you must confirm that your reflection is accurate.
III. Appeal to Objectives
After two or more competing claims have been clarified, and hopefully documented, ask the group to contrast the two claims by asking them to what extent each supports the reasons for the meeting; specifically:
- To what extent does each position support the overall project objectives?
- To what extent does each position support the program objectives (ie, the reasons for approving the project)?
- (continuing up the holarchy, if necessary)
- To what extent does each position support the business unit objectives (ie, what would the executive sponsor say)?
- To what extent does each position support the enterprise objectives (ie, what would the chief executive officer say)?
If the three steps, in sequence, fail to drive consensual resolution, take the documented claims back to the steering team, decision review board, or other for their input. Almost always, they will appeal to the reasons they approved the project or program. Sometimes participants fail to agree with each other based on irrational or irreconcilable terms. No facilitator can build consensus around every issue, but having a method to follow provides the security that you have done your best.
Become Part of the Solution—Improve Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills
First of all, go to the Facilitation Training Store https://mgrush.com/shop/ to access our in-house resources such as annotated agendas, break timers and templates used in our FAST Professional Leadership, Facilitation, and Methodology Training.
Furthermore, the FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual. Therefore, attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world. See MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, or 3.2 CEUs).
Finally, don’t forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. Change or Die provides detailed workshop agendas. Most of all, it also includes numerous tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective.
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