You know that old quote — the only sure things in life are death and taxes? It makes a sobering point, but it’s not quite right because there are a bunch of other things we’re likely to face.

For the corporate leader, workplace conflict is one of those certainties.

No matter how diplomatic you are, over the course of your career as a leader, conflict is inevitable. There are simply too many different personalities and backgrounds that come together in the workplace for things to go smoothly all the time. It’s a part of the fabric of working life, and you, as the leader, need to be adept at managing disputes or clashes when they arise. After all, the hallmark of a truly great leader is their ability to manage conflict.

The good news:  since you know conflict will come up, you can prepare right now by laying a good foundation for relationships with colleagues. It’s putting money in the bank to save for a rainy day every month — if you’re super smart, you’ll even automate it — even though you have no idea when you might need to access it in the future.  The bad news:  it’s easy to be passive about creating solid relationships — especially with people you might intersect with at work, but don’t work with frequently.  And when you do that, you are setting yourself up for potential trouble down the road.

The distinction to make is the transactional relationship vs. the relating relationship.

Those leaders who treat their relationships transactionally have the following mindset:

  • I only interact with you when I need something
  • I categorize and then relate to you either as an enabler, an obstacle or irrelevant to my goals.
  • I “transact” with you based on the above categorization.

Those leaders who approach with a relating mindset do the following:

  • I put “money in the bank” of our relationship by getting to know you
  • I look for shared goals by: (1) understanding your goals & values, (2) looking for intersection of goals, (3) finding ways in which we co-create better outcomes
  • I “connect” with you based on the investment I’ve made in the relationship

The leaders who approach relationships with a relating mindset are much more adept at handling conflict when it arises because they have already laid the foundation, “tilled the soil” so-to-speak, to work through challenges.  They know that waiting to build a relationship at the point of conflict is too late.. and will be much more difficult and time consuming to resolve. When conflict arises, they have a solid foundation for communication instead of spinning into crisis mode.

So. . . which mindset are you in when it comes to interacting with colleagues?  Take an honest look, and remember . . you reap what you sow.

We help leaders learn to manage conflict and build stronger, more authentic working relationships.  Contact us to find out how we can help you build a high performance team.