Managing conflict in cross functional team
A large retail chain
Howard Guttman aligned a large retail chain’s senior HR team. After the alignment session, he provided the team with the basic influencing and conflict management skills they were going to need to work together in the new horizontal, high-performance environment. But in order to cascade the model down through the function, the team’s 60-70 direct reports also needed to acquire new capabilities. A Guttman consultant began by asking selected members of the senior team three questions: * In what business situations would your people benefit from improved influencing and conflict management skills? * How does the corporate culture support or hinder the successful use of influencing and conflict management skills? * What specific areas or issues would you like us to focus on in the two-day program we design to impart these skills? The second of these questions turned out to be the most useful in our program design. The company’s culture was founded on three basic beliefs: respect for the individual, service to the customer, and striving for excellence every day. As positive as all three are, the first had some unintended negative consequences, according to the senior team. The horizontal, high-performance model requires people to hold each other accountable and confront conflict openly and honestly, yet in this culture such behavior was often construed as disrespectful. Our consultant began the program by explaining that not holding a colleague accountable—allowing him or her to fail—was in fact a sign of disrespect. When you respect people, you want to see them succeed, and you do all you can to help them do so, even if it means pushing them beyond their comfort zone. With this new mind-set, participants in the program began to understand how to give feedback rather than feed attack, depersonalize conflict, and get the buy-in of colleagues without alienating them. Participants...
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