Forbes Leadership Channel post written by:
Joanne Markow | Blending a love of learning, coaching science, culture and technology—to help you build your story and career. Partner at GreenMason.
It’s 2 PM. Your team is approaching a vital project launch, and stress levels are high. You call a meeting to check in on the timeline and deliverables, hoping to ease tensions and get everyone on the same page. But that plan backfires. And instead, the meeting quickly becomes an airing of grievances.
The project manager is upset because his deadlines keep getting pushed back—and no one else seems to care about sticking to the schedule. The creative director feels stifled because her vision for the launch campaign has been watered down beyond recognition. The sales and marketing manager is frustrated because he doesn’t have buy-in from all departments on the final copy. The lead developer just wants to get her product out into the world, without all the drama. That’s just the first ten minutes.
You’ve just witnessed a collision of movers, shakers, likers and makers—four distinct team role archetypes that I’ve encountered in almost every organization I’ve worked in. Each style strengthens and rounds out the team. On a people vs. task scale, each may value something different. When they complement one another, they are capable of accomplishing great work. But when intentions are thwarted or expectations clash, the dynamics can cause ongoing conflict in the workplace.
• Movers like to reach goals. They have a results-oriented mindset and concentrate on metrics, numbers and other KPIs. Movers value persistence, focus and follow-through, and they feel a sense of accomplishment when they achieve an objective. On a team, they’re driven and detail-oriented, but they can also be perceived as rigid and uncompromising.
• Shakers are innovators and disruptors. They want to get their bold ideas out into the world to create change. Shakers value speed, agility and forward thinking, and they feel a sense of accomplishment when they reshape the status quo. On a team, they’re creative and visionary, but in conflict, they may be seen as disorganized and rash.
• Likers seek appreciation and harmony on a team. They are focused on finding the ideal group dynamic for working together for a common cause. Likers value communication and affirmation, and they feel a sense of accomplishment when everyone’s needs are met. On a team, they’re empathetic and enthusiastic, but they can also come across as overly sensitive and indecisive.
• Makers like to build things. They take pride in crafting and completing their product, whether it’s a piece of technology, design or writing. Makers value accuracy and diligence, and they feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete a project. On a team, they’re productive and practical, but they may be described as single-minded and unsympathetic during times of change.
Some conflict is inevitable in any group with divergent styles—but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. How you learn to deal with conflict and manage interpersonal relationships can help you grow as a leader and further your own career. After all, you may identify with different archetypes as you play different roles on teams. Here are three tips for approaching conflict constructively.
Understand Your Personal Brand
At our company, we talk about developing your personal branding—not as a way to seek attention, but as a promise of what it’s like to work with you. Your personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room. What stories are they telling? How do you make people feel in your interactions? How do you react to challenges?
Examine your own role in a workplace conflict. Did you listen? Did you look for solutions instead of just complaining about the problem? In what ways can you change your own behavior to help resolve disputes and move the team forward? Take personal responsibility for how others interpret your words and actions.
Build Your Story
In my career, the most difficult team dynamics have also taught me the most. Instead of feeling like a victim in a tough situation, use the challenge to help build your story. What can you learn from it? What actions can you take to make a positive difference? How can you use these lessons to your benefit in the future? This is a valuable skill to help shape your personal branding and use for job interviews and promotions when discussing your handling of interpersonal relationships.
Strengthen Your Resilience
Many people struggle to cope with obstacles that arise at work, like change, ambiguity or competition. But you can learn to be more resilient and bounce back from these difficulties. If you’re struggling with an uncomfortable situation, start by naming it and the feelings it evokes (“I am out of my comfort zone, and it is making me feel anxious”).
Try some resilience-building strategies, including cultivating an optimistic outlook, avoiding seeing crises as insurmountable and taking decisive actions instead of ignoring problems.
Once you are in the right frame of mind for managing conflict, use one of these tactics to find common ground in a conflict. Remember that you’re not trying to change people—you’re just trying to improve the situation.
1. Listen For Understanding
Practice active listening. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak or counter someone else’s argument. Seek to understand what the other person is trying to do, setting aside your own preconceptions. What goals and values do you share? For example, a shaker who wants to make a splash on the market and a maker who wants to create a useful product can easily find commonalities, even if their methods differ.
2. Look Around You
Design thinking is popular for synthesizing and building ideas. But by adopting a systems-thinking approach on your team, you can foster big-picture awareness of end-to-end contributions and needs. You all have individual roles, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. You depend on each other to get your work done and accomplish shared goals. Defuse the emotion in these conversations by simply expressing what each person is trying to accomplish and what they need to be successful. Ask questions like: What do you need from me? How can we help each other to reach this milestone?
3. Define Success
Opt for a solutions-focused vs. a problems-focused approach. Define what success means to you as a team. Imagine your final outcome. What are you trying to build? What is your overarching goal? What impact is thinking about this outcome having on you? On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you today in solving this challenge? Recognize that once you resolve recurring conflicts, you—as a team—will be well-equipped to achieve your goals together.
Collisions may be anticipated, but how you handle them or prevent them is your story. And your brand. Whether you’re a natural mover, shaker, liker or maker—be a solver too.
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