Effective Leaders Solve Intramural Feuds

When I was young teacher, I often found myself in the middle of student disputes. My response was always something along the lines of, “You need to learn how to solve your own problems.”

I was thinking I was doing them a service by empowering them grow up and solve problems on their own. In reality, I was avoiding drama myself, and being selfish. Leaders of organizations need to clean up spats between people.

It’s a copout to say, “People need to solve their own personality issues,” or “That’s just the way he is – nothing I can do to change him.”

These responses undermine the power of leadership. Also, you’ve missed an opportunity to improve the way your team works together.

If you have people in your organization who are too immature to solve their own drama, or their “personality conflicts”, then you have an opportunity to develop your people by teaching them how.

You also have a chance to demonstrate that you care, and that you’re interested in seeing their lives become better. This isn’t soft and flowery; this is practical stuff that will improve the effectiveness of your team, ensuring more work gets done better.

Effective leaders will become well-versed on personality styles and how to identify them. That’s not enough, though; it’s also necessary to know the steps needed to teach people to communicate and work in ways that connect with all other styles.

If you know me, you know that I love DiSC. I think it’s the easiest to grasp and put into practice right away.

There are other options, of course; I find the five factor model to be pretty attractive, but the point is to get yourself educated on personality styles, idiosyncrasies, and ways to resolve the inevitable misfires. Because that’s what usually is; a misfire of communication that leads to misunderstandings, that people inevitably chalk up to “personality conflicts”, or immaturity.

Regardless of what you call it, the effective leader will step in to solve internal feuds.

5 Responses

  1. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    I like this and I wonder if you really mean “the effective leader will step in to solve internal feuds” or do you mean the effective leader will step in to teach/train/coach/support people in resolving their own internal feuds?
    Just wondering. This is such a great blog.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      A great question! The answer may be situational.

      The first priority is to resolve the problem so that the team can be productive again. So, if the parties involved have the capacity and maturity to learn some skills to avoid future situations, that would be best. However, if they “aren’t there yet,” equipping them with those skills might have two obstacles: One, you might not have the skills yourself to teach them. Two, it might be so time-consuming that it would be too counter-productive in the short term.

      It depends on if we’re talking about two spatting entry-level grocery store cashiers with little soft-skill development, or if we’re talking about two ordained members of an established ministry team who have been working together for a couple years.

      What do you think?

  2. Michael Albarracin
    | Reply

    I keep coming back to this particular entry and thinking over how to achieve this without being overbearing. Previous experience has shown me that I can be either too forceful or too dismissive in resolving disputes between people. Is there a way to not get caught up in the heat of the moment?

  3. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    To answer your last question first –
    To avoid getting caught up in the heat of the moment, leave the situation and take moments, or hours, or days, to reflect.

    First, always focus on this: “What is needed?”
    Then, focus on each individual: “What does this person need?”

    (If possible, apply your DiSC expertise – make sure you’ve “read” the people accurately, consult the last few pages of your profile if need be, and reflect on what implications that may have. The same behavior from you might appear different to different people.)

    Respect boundaries, and read body language. If you see disgust at your disinterest, then engage. If you see reluctance at your entering the space, back off. Make sure you’re equipping them with the skills needed to solve problems on their own.

    If the dispute has only marginal impact on the organization, consider leaving it alone. This post is about conflicts that interfere with your team’s goals, not just interpersonal drama.

    What does anyone else think?

    Thanks for engaging…

  4. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    From Alan Loy McGinnis’s Balanced Life:
    “People function well on teams when they subordinate their personal feuds in order to win the battle. Anytime we hear a leader say, “This conflict between you two is not my problem, it’s yours, and you two have to iron it out,” we can be certain that the group will eventually malfunction. There are times we must step in, listen to both sides [though not at the same time in the same room], decide on a compromise, then put all the weight behind the compromise.

    Choosing when to step into such situations and when to wait can be a difficult call, but when your group knows that you insist on their working together, it is more likely that they will try to resolve the dispute themselves.”

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