C-Suite Network™

Executive Leadership Pearls of Wisdom on Conflict Management

An irritant can be the catalyst for the creation of something beautiful and valuable.

One of the most delectable foods you can eat in our beloved bayous is an oyster po-boy. Talk about delish! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! But watch out! Don’t be surprised if you crunch down on a pearl. (No need to worry about pearls if you’re slurping down raw oysters on the half shell without chewing. Your teeth will be spared. But ca c’est bon!)

Pearls are formed when a piece of grit, sand or shell get trapped inside the oyster. It protects itself from irritation by secreting a liquid around the particle, which eventually, over time, builds into what we know as a pearl.

Many managers tell me that they spend a large part of their workday resolving conflicts and settling disputes among team members. When we think of “conflict,” we automatically think that it is always a bad thing. This is not necessarily true. Like the irritant to the oyster, something valuable can come from conflict.  Actually, conflict can be a very positive thing when it challenges leaders to explore new ideas, sparks curiosity about differences, or stretches the group’s problem-solving efforts.

A little dash of hot sauce, or a bit of conflict among team members is inevitable. Managing conflict within a work group can be quite a challenge, and your team needs a leader who can channel it for the greater good of the team.

Leaders and managers, you are probably constantly faced with playing “referee” between two or more of your employees. (This is a complaint I hear often!) Although I’m certainly not a relationships expert or a counselor, I have had quite a bit of experience in this department (unfortunately).

Try to practice a few of my “pearls” of wisdom to help you help your employees resolve conflicts with as little bloodshed as possible.

Executive Leadership Pearls of Wisdom to Manage Conflict:

  • Foster an open-minded work culture so that employees will realize that their way is just one way of looking at things. Instead of asking themselves “How can I win?” they should ask themselves, “What can I learn?”


  • Teach team members to get their emotions under control and to gather their thoughts before they say something that they’ll regret. Explain that the only decisions that can’t wait are those involving the safety or health of others. All other decisions can wait until facts are gathered and emotions are checked.


  • Encourage employees that if they must criticize, to criticize ideas not people. Teammates should focus on the issues instead of blaming or insulting others, which would only result in the negative, destructive type of conflict.


  • Train yourself and employees to use active listening skills. For example, try restating what the other person is saying before responding. Listen to the whole message rather than just what you want or expect to hear.


  • Urge the team to ask questions rather than assume. You know the saying, when we assume…. Well, you can only guess what another person is thinking or what their motivations are.

It’s easy to talk about these pearls of wisdom, and hard to actually perform them regularly. Kind of like talking about the need to exercise, when we really just want to kick back and have a strawberry daiquiri. It is important as a leader that you use these team-building techniques so that your team members can learn to work out disagreements on their own.


How do you deal with conflict in your workplace?

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