Conflict isn't what gets people excited about coming to work every day, that's for sure. And leaders and employees alike try to avoid it any way possible. But the best way to avoid conflicts is to understand what gives rise to them in the first place.
One of the best definitions of conflict came from Blaine Lee, a FranklinCovey co-founder who argued that nearly all, if not all, conflict comes from mismatched or unfulfilled expectations. Whether the conflict is with your investors, funders, lenders, vendors, boss, peers, or partner, it likely comes down to one of those two things.
Leaders must be courageous enough to constantly clarify expectations and deliverables so there are no conflicts about outcomes.
Don't be afraid to overcommunicate what you want.
Leaders must have the directness and diplomacy to paint an uber-clear picture of what success looks like. And sometimes that means repeating yourself ad nauseam or finding other creative ways to make sure your message about expectations is getting through. That takes patience, and sometimes it means adapting your communication style. For visual learners, you might need to use illustrations or graphs. For tactile learners, you might need 3D models. But the burden is on you to be as clear as possible without being patronizing.
Test your message for clarity.
On more than a few occasions after I've communicated a strategy, I'll select someone in the room -- not in a picking-on-them way -- and just say, "Hey, indulge me. Would you, in your own words, repeat that strategy back to me?" And I will explain that I'm asking for feedback to make sure we're on the same page. In that process, the person might clarify or tighten a few parts, or even suggest something that might inspire the leader to adjust the strategy. That takes some humility and vulnerability, but you often get greater clarity.
Be deliberate in your language.
Leaders tend to communicate in the same fashion in which they like to receive information. I'm a very loud, charismatic, and visceral person, and I tend to respond well to that same kind of presenter. And of course, introverts or others may find that fatiguing or offensive, or even a bit patronizing. So effective communicators accommodate their style to the situation and the persons that they're trying to direct. Articulate the outcomes in a way your audience will best understand.
Your goal as a leader must be to ensure your team leaves every meeting clear about what success looks like. Sometimes that may feel like overcommunicating your message, but it's more likely your audience will perceive it as clarifying matters to avoid a conflict down the road.