In the movie Armageddon, the President of the United States is talking to NASA scientist Dan Truman, played by Billy Bob Thornton, about the approaching asteroid. Let’s listen in…
President: What is this thing?
Truman: It’s an asteroid, sir.
President: How big are we talking?
Scientist: Sir, our best estimate is 97.6 billion.
Truman: It’s the size of Texas, Mr. President.
President: Dan, we didn’t see this thing coming?
Truman: Well, our object collision budget’s about a million dollars a year. That allows us to track about three percent of the sky, and begging your pardon, sir, but it’s a big-ass sky.
Conflict is bound to happen. There’s no way we can see all of the potential conflicts headed our way. The sky is just too big. Sure, sometimes we see it coming, but other times it sneaks up on us and catches us off guard or unaware. But conflict, like the asteroid in the movie, is coming whether we like it or not.
The challenges we face as we lead others are how to prepare for times of conflict, how to deal with it when it happens, and possibly avert or minimize the consequences of conflict. Let’s focus on the latter here, and maybe discover some ways that we that we might diminish or avoid a number of potential conflicts.
Houston, We Have A Problem
I know that quote is from a different space movie, but you get the point! Effective and clear communication is a vital practice if we’re going to cut back on the amount of conflict in our organizations. Just a few suggestions when it comes to clear communication are:
- Put important messages in writing.
- Ask for feedback from your team.
- Communicate often and in as many different ways as possible.
Set Phasers to Stun
Seriously, space movies are hostile places. That being said, many major conflicts can be avoided by dealing with little problems while they are still small. Ignoring problems is not the same as avoiding conflict. Proactively addressing smaller issues so that they don’t metastasize into much bigger problems is a skill every leader needs. Consider these possibilities when confronted with smaller, but potentially growing problems:
- Go to the source of the problem for the clearest picture of what the issue is.
- Look for common ground or ways to mediate a peaceful resolution.
- Don’t overreact or make more of a problem than really exists.
Use The Force, Luke
You may not be a Jedi master, but you’re the leader. Some leaders stumble into the role, but it’s more likely you’ve made it there through hard work, training and trusting your instincts. Sort of sounds like you are a Jedi. When trying to survey the landscape of team interaction and potential problems, use and trust the instincts that got you where you are. Other things you might consider are:
- Surround yourself with leaders who also have instincts that you trust.
- Take some time to reflect on those gut feelings. Don’t react too quickly.
- When all else fails, remember this; you NEVER have to apologize for doing the right thing.
Anytime more than one person occupies a space, whether it is outer space or an office space, there’s bound to be conflict sometime. As the leader, plan ahead. Communicate, don’t overreact and use your instincts to minimize the effects that conflict will have on you, your team and your organization. You can do it.