When working on a project with one of my colleagues last week, we came to point of conflict because we couldn't communicate effectively.  We were working on a mathematical problem that needed to get solved to move the project forward.  Both he and I had plenty of experience and shared perspective on how to get the formula to work.  The challenge was that we both had different backgrounds and used different language and terms for the project.  Every time one person would explain, the other would get confused. This went on for a few days.

Finally we both had to stop advocating and get back to basics.  We had to find the common knowledge and then teach each other terms so we could create common language.  Once we overcame the communication barrier on mechanics we were able to continue our negotiation on the real issues like price and marketability. There is nothing wrong with healthy conflict, but to stay productive you must make sure you are only arguing about real issues and not just terms and mechanics.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Take a test.

There are many assessment tools you can use with your team to better understand what drives each individual's decision making, communication style and approach to problem solving.  Once you have this knowledge and discuss it with your team members, you can go back to it as a way to work through a communication block. The best tool I use for learning about my team members is called DNA Behavior. This quick evaluation uncovers each person's natural preferences for how they wish to be communicated with by others.  I can then use this knowledge to "speak the other person's language" and overcome most communication blocks. I am transparent about the fact that we all communicate differently.  I find that it's in this difference that the best outcomes can be created. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

2. Try standing in their shoes.

When people are at odds it's often because the parties involved have vastly contrasting personality types. While we need and value individuals whose strengths and interests lie in different areas, this means that conflicts are bound to happen. In one such instance I was working with co-founders, one a humanitarian who sometimes strayed from the practical, the other a bottom-line guy who frequently lost sight of the purpose and vision. When a severe block occurred I had them reverse rolls and explain their partner's perspective. This roll reversal exercise diffused inflated egos and helped each party revisit all aspects of the big picture. Without fail this brought them back to a common ground. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

3. Get a mediator.

When you've got two employees who can't seem to communicate well together, the best prescription is to call them both into your office and then to work through the issues with them, acting as a translator, mediator, and referee. Figure out where the disconnects are, then ask each employee to describe his or her point of view. Summarize each person's perspective, and then find common ground that both parties can agree to. Set aside whatever amount of time it takes to work through the communication issues--they may not be easy to resolve, but the time you spend now will save you many hours down the line. To put the icing on the cake, have the two employees report their progress to you on a weekly basis. If the communication issues make a comeback, then repeat the process outlined above. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.


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