A conflict-fit manager is one who is ready to accept and embrace conflict as an opportunity for development and growth. What are the qualities of a conflict-fit manager?
Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to self-motivate, to control impulses, to be persistence, to demonstrate zeal, to show empathy and to social deftness.(Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, Bloomsbury, 1996) Emotional intelligence allows the manager to be present in any discussion about the conflict or with the parties involved in the conflict.
Self-awareness. Conflict-fit managers understand how conflict affects their behaviour and their response to the behaviour of adversaries. They are aware of the triggers, often with deeply sub-conscious origins, that determine their responses to conflict. Being aware of these triggers allow for a more measured and controlled response in situations of conflict.
Communication skills. Communication is attending to someone with empathy and connecting to people. The skill to listen with attention is probably the most import communication skill of a conflict-fit manager. While there is value in acknowledging the speaker and note down an important point, but an attentive listener listens without judgement. Attentive listening develops the ability to ask impactful questions and to respond with clarity.
Lateral thinking. Many of us shy away from difficult conversations until we can no longer avoid them. Conflict-fit managers face difficult conversations looking to design new outcomes, rather than choosing conventional solutions. Design, according to De Bono, (Edward de Bono, Conflicts, Vermilion, 2018-edition) has two attributes – a sense of purpose and a sense of fit. Persons, experience and ideas are brought together to shape a response that is relevant and practical.
These attributes can be nurtured, which means that every manager can be a conflict-fit manager.
[This article first appear in the PMR Africa of August 2019]