Much has been written about how a business can be successful – and the advice is mostly right! Attracting customers, outstanding service, knowing your competition, running the organisation efficiently, and so on – so easy to say (if not so easy to do). But there is one issue which can undermine all the efforts to make a business a success – conflict.
Whether conflict is between business and suppliers, business and customers or (potentially most damaging) conflict within the business, the effects can be devastating, and destructive unresolved conflict can undo years of building a business. Managing Conflict is a business imperative.
Ironically, the conflicts and disputes which are obvious are often more likely to be addressed (although often ineffectively, leaving relationships and performance both damaged, possibly beyond repair). Few people who have experienced the legal system have felt it was money and time well spent; there are often no winners, and when there are, they are usually unpredictable – a gamble with very high stakes.
Often worse are the conflicts below the surface, which may take many forms:
– The dissatisfied customer who doesn’t complain but just spreads destructive messages
– The worker who silently rebels by producing shoddy work and/or wastes time
– The Board members who smile and joke with each other but encourage their departments to wage war
– The inspector who seeks out reasons to condemn rather than opportunities to improve.
The hidden key to managing conflict and business success is to embed conflict resolution in the way business is done. There are two aspects to managing conflict :
– Identifying potential sources of conflict – and eliminating them at source
– Identifying existing conflicts – and resolving them
The legal route should be the last resort. Indeed, it is unrealistic to believe that any intervention by lawyers or others, who don’t have experience how business works from the inside, will do more than address individual conflicts. For managing conflict to make a fundamental and lasting impact on business success, a business perspective is vital. NLP (advanced communication), mediation and coaching skills are tremendously effective in addressing these issues – quickly and cheaply, with lasting effectiveness, provided they are applied with ‘business intelligence’. Business leaders and managers can be trained to develop their own awareness and skills. Most crucially, managing conflict should not be applied as an add-on to the business, but rather be part of the business – ‘the way we do things round here’.