Want Results as a Leader? Respond, Don’t React!

In my professional life, this week, I had to deal with conflict.  Has anyone other leader had to deal with conflict in the workplace in their career?  If you answered no, please let me know where you work, and tell me if there are any openings!

Today on my “3Rs of Success” blog I will address the 3Rs of Conflict Resolution.

Dealing with conflict on the team is one of the biggest drains on my energy and enthusiasm as a leader.  Yet, if addressed in a positive manner, it can lead to some of the best RESULTS the team can produce.

In order to see those positive fruits out of conflict, the secret is to RESPOND rather than REACT.  Dictionary.com defines the two terms this way:

React:  to act in opposition, as against some force.

Respond:  to react favorably.

When faced with conflict, one can take either of these two approaches.  Which do you think will build the team?  Which do you think will tear it apart?  The answer is pretty self-evident in these definitions, right?  But, what steps do you need to take in order to respond to a conflict, rather than react?

1. Deal with it!  Now!:  The first thing you have to do about conflict is address it!  In my situation this week, conflict had been brewing for a couple of weeks, and I  “had not had time” to deal with it.   We HAVE to TAKE TIME.  The sooner the better!  It can be the difference between a bump in the road to a 20 car pile up!

2. Begin with the end in mind:  What is the goal of conflict resolution?  Is it to get both sides of the story documented, assign blame and keep score?  I hope not!  The goal should be to bridge the gap caused by the conflict and unify the team.  If a leader keeps that goal in mind it will lead to the positive outcomes that can result from team conflict.

3. Find the underlying issue:  Bad behavior needs to be addressed, but often the behaviors stem from underlying causes that a leader can also affect.  If all we do is confront the behaviors it is like treating the symptoms but ignoring the disease!  If emotions run high because of perceived inequities, we need to address the perception of inequity.  If the inequity is real, we must address the reality.  If inequity is caused by lack of skill sets for part of the team, we need to add to the skills of team members.  You get the idea…   Great leaders dig deep to get at the root causes and effectively deal with them.  They do not believe in Band-Aid approaches!

Thankfully, I have a great team and we worked together to respond to conflict this week.  The results were positive and I believe we can move forward from here with greater trust and unity.  All because we chose to respond rather than react.

Special thanks to the team member who brought up the difference between responding and reacting, inspiring this blog post!

Does anyone else have tips to help us respond rather than react?

4 thoughts on “Want Results as a Leader? Respond, Don’t React!

  1. Understand and accept that you, as a leader (or even subordinate), do not need to like everyone on the team. Understand that surrounding yourself with “yes men” might boost your self-esteem while driving away highly qualified not-yes-men. Understand that you do not NEED to be the smartest person in the room.

  2. Our government funded health/ ageing system in Queensland, Australia, is also undergoing huge change re funding.
    As a volunteer Board President of a small not-for-profit organization, which relies on this funding, I value this subject- because I am sure that our Manager is faced with the stress of, in many cases , the unknown changes to come.
    I will take your gift of respond not react to the manager’s behaviours.
    It is interesting that for some, the natural reaction is to split and divide the team, when there is stress abound.
    Thankyou for your timely and succint reminder- keep the end goal in focus.

  3. Patrick this is exactly how I have felt for years! Leaders really need to “wrap their minds” around this concept (as a foundation). Some healthcare organizations can’t afford to pay employees competitively and therefore to maintain morale, “effective” management is vital. Also, an “effective” management doesn’t depend on the degree a person holds but the ability of that manager to be able to work in each position they manage, doing so when necessary and to be able to anticipate the needs of their employees. I anticipate be coming a leader in the future, I will start keeping a folder (“Leader in Me”) and this will be my first article in it. Thanks for sharing Patrick, I wish you well!

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