How to turn Conflict into Collaboration

| May 13, 2022

You could spend a lifetime trying to understand workplace conflict. World-renowned English cognitive psychologist Michael Kirton did just that. He died in 2020 at the age of 94, having spent a sizeable chunk of his life trying to solve the puzzle of how to increase collaboration and reduce conflict within groups. Like Kirton, I’ve spent a lot of time working on how people manage the relationships with the people they work with so they can complete the task or challenge they are working on within their business.

In my new book Mastering Hard Conversations, the key message is simple: conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Being skilled in dealing with conflict and having uncomfortable conversations has enormous benefits.

What are hard conversations? Hard conversations are the ones you find awkward or difficult – they are the ones you put off or avoid. Hard conversations in the workplace don’t just cover the business you are working in (communicating up, across, and down) but external players such as customers, consultants, and business partners. It can occur in a one-on-one situation or in a group meeting.

Where do you start? If you want to get better at something, the first thing you need to do is step back and look at what you are doing now. To become better at having hard conversations you need to take the time to reflect on what you currently do so you can see your strengths and opportunities. What do you do well? What gets you into trouble? What are your triggers? Then, you need to learn how to prepare.

Why prepare for hard conversations? Preparation is important. Some people say they don’t have time to prepare for every hard conversation that comes along, however it doesn’t take a lot of time. Once you become familiar with the process in Mastering Hard Conversations you can prepare quite quickly. Failure to the spend the time preparing is a high-risk strategy that often ends badly.

Developing your skills is critical. While preparation sets you up for success, to get good at hard conversations you need to practice some core skills. Craig Rundle, author of Improving Your Conflict Competence and other books, confirms the program referenced in the book is “understandable and totally actionable”. Rundle says the book gives “practical insights to help leaders address conflicts confidently and competently”.

Managing conflict is a core capability for today’s leaders. The book helps readers prepare for hard conversations no matter where they are in their career. Mastering Hard Conversations will help them:

  • Deepen self-awareness and understanding of conflict
  • Learn how to approach and prepare for hard conversations
  • Develop skills to increase confidence to manage difficult situations, and
  • Learn when and how to give effective feedback

Dr Rob Newman, CEO of Nearmap Ltd adds “[the book shares] great wisdom and frameworks to manage the hard conversations that are inevitable with change or growth in every organisation”.

Mastering Hard Conversations provides a proven, practical, structured approach to help people become better leaders and managers by improving communication and conflict skills and shows how to turn conflict into collaboration.