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Resolving a Team Conflict: Take These Steps - A Mini Case Study

About 2 months ago a client asked me to come in to their office to help a 5-person project team resolve a conflict they were having on the team. She had tried to resolve it herself but was having difficulty getting the team to agree on a solution and felt an independent party may be able to help them come to a resolution. I agreed to assist her to get the team back on track.

While I won’t get into the exact details of the conflict, I wanted to share the steps I took to help the team collaborate (notice I didn’t say resolve the conflict for them) to come to a “win-win” solution to the conflict.

Prior to the meeting. I sent an email to the team introducing myself and explaining that I wanted to schedule a meeting to enable the team to spend some time working through the conflict. I explained that my purpose was to help them collaborate by facilitating the meeting, not to resolve the conflict for them. I asked for their agreement in meeting and schedule a meeting convenient for all five team members. We decided to meet outside of the office so as to reduce distractions and interruptions.

The day of the meeting. The day of the meeting, with the entire group together, I took the following steps to help the team collaborate to resolve the conflict:

Step 1: Set guidelines for the meeting: no blame, keep the talk about the conflict neutral, actively listen to each other, enable each other to talk without interrupting
Step 2: Get agreement on the issue in conflict – ensure that everyone sees and understands the issue in the same way.
Step 3: Discuss why the conflict is occurring (what is causing it to occur.)
Step 4: Have an open discussion/do some brainstorming – around the issue. What are some possible solutions to resolve the conflict?
Step 5: Narrow down the options based on interests and make changes as needed in order to develop potential solutions that work for the team. Choose the best solution to resolve the conflict through consensus.
Step 6: Have the team collaborate to develop an action plan to implement the solution to the conflict
Step 7: Ensure consensus is reached. Ask for commitment.

Set up follow up meetings to ensure that progress is being made in resolving the conflict.