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Intelligent Conflict Management - How to Deal with Conflict in Project Teams webinar

Martin Gosden, SWWE Branch Co-Chair introduced tonight’s Webinar, 4 November 2020. APM SWWE Branch was delighted to hold its second webinar event this year. Our speaker, Lucy Finney MBE, Head of Leadership Development at Underscore Group, was originally due to speak at an event on 16 June, but of course that had to be postponed due to the current circumstances. Tonight, Lucy will be talking about Intelligent Conflict Management, which is one of the most requested topics from members.

Lucy started the presentation with some Slido questions to the audience of 111.  58% said that they spent 25% of their time managing conflicts, 62% felt that they had average ability to handle conflict, and behaviours witnessed included defensiveness, aggression, frustration and confusion.

Lucy’s presentation looked at what conflict is, why it happens, how personality drives behaviours and how to manage conflict.

There are many definitions of conflict, including those in the APM Body of Knowledge 7 and Competence Framework, but it can be defined as a struggle between opposing forces, ideas, interests. It is usually associated with the task to be done, the process to do that task or interpersonal relationships.

Intelligent conflict management involves many aspects, including self-awareness, discipline and self-control, integrity, mastery of negative feelings, creative problem solving, relationship building, respect and empathy as examples.

Conflict in teams is normal, and so it is important to recognise the signs early to be able to effectively manage it. Tuckman’s team dynamics model is useful to understand what could happen at each stage of forming, storming, norming and performing. Lucy discussed the bad and good signs to be aware of at each stage of team development. For instance, during the forming stage, it is important to invest in building trust to encourage people to talk and get to know each other.

There are a number of approaches to managing conflict, Thomas Kilmann’s Conflict Handling Strategies offers a useful model, looking at satisfying yourself and others. Competing is always a win-lose scenario, whereas collaboration is a win-win scenario built on trust. Others include avoid, (lose-win), compromise and accommodate, (both are mixed but working for the greater good). Based on your personality you will have a preferred style, which you should be aware of, and try and avoid its over use.

Psychological models can help you understand your personality preferences. Lucy discussed the Lumina Spark model which can help you to know yourself and understand what drives your behaviour. For example, if you are outcome focussed, you tend to be more competitive, logical and tough, which can be good for intense situations, but not appropriate in other situations and lead to conflict in the team. You should knowingly choose the appropriate style for any given situation.

Another useful model is Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. This is a pyramid, build on an absence of trust in a team, which leads to fear of conflict, then lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and ultimately to inattention to results, and business goals not being achieved. Turning the pyramid upside down, building a cohesive team starts with building trust which allows the team to engage with unfiltered conflict around ideas, joint commitment to ideas and action, holding each other accountable, and focus on delivering agreed results.

So how can you encourage intelligent conflict management between suppliers and customers in a contractual context. Lucy has experience of using ISO 44001 Collaborative business relationship management systems (2017), as the basis for payment against demonstrable collaboration. It was not easy to do, but it was successful. Lucy discussed how ISO 44001 mapped to Lencioni’s model and its principles.

Intelligent conflict management starts with self-awareness of what drives your own behaviours, the development of your emotional intelligence, an understanding of team dynamics, learning how to build trust, demonstrating personal integrity – walking the talk, and establishing a climate of safety and trust in the team.

The evening finished with a lively Q&A session.

Lucy has very kindly allowed her presented material to be made available for viewing. The slides on Slideshare and the webinar recording on YouTube is now available in our APM resources area and also embedded below for reference.

Martin Gosden
APM SWWE Branch Co-Chair

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