While no leader desires conflict, as entrepreneurs they often experience it on a day-to-day basis. Differing opinions, struggles with working relationships and team management issues can all lay the foundation for potential conflict, and not all leaders are equipped to handle it.
In order to get more comfortable with conflict then, leaders must be proactive and develop a plan to overcome their fears. To help, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council shared 14 ways leaders can get more comfortable with conflict and be more successful as a result.
1. Develop a Stoic Mindset
As a business leader, you have to make key decisions that are vital for your business and not everyone is going to like your decisions. Conflicts are bound to happen no matter how you look at it. One way leaders can get comfortable with conflict is by adopting a stoic mindset, which essentially means not letting your emotions get the better of you.
2. Reframe Conflicts as Opportunities for Training
One issue with the current business mentality is that we’re always trying to make things easier. Doing tough things in and of itself has value. Doing anything that is difficult forces your personal limitations to expand, making you more capable and resilient. Work to reframe conflicts and challenges as opportunities for training, allowing you to “up your game” and become a better leader.
3. Acknowledge That It Is Inevitable
Acknowledge that conflict is inevitable! People think, feel and communicate in different ways; therefore, there will always be some degree of misunderstanding, miscommunication or conflict. By acknowledging this fact, managers can have a more realistic approach to it and deal with it more naturally, in a less stressful way.
4. Expose Yourself to More Conflict
There’s no easy way around it—no hack whatsoever. As a business leader, your No. 1 job is to extinguish the multiple fires in your company. And as you grow, the fires become numerous. Even if you get to delegate, the fires that get to your desk are tough ones. So for me, it all comes down to exposure. Exposure gives you experience. It’s always going to be hard. You’ll get used to it.
5. Understand That Conflict Isn’t Bad
You can get more comfortable with conflict when you understand that conflict isn’t bad. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either party. It just means that there needs to be further communication to work through any issues or misunderstandings.
6. Improve Your Communication Skills
One way leaders can get more comfortable with conflict is to improve their communication skills. Learning how to ask questions can take you a long way in managing conflicts. For example, phrasing a question like “I would like to understand better” makes the other person feel less threatened and will help you get access to underlying issues. It’ll also make you feel better about the situation.
7. Become More Self-Aware
Self-awareness is key to being comfortable with any conflict that may come. Knowing and accepting there will be days that there will be failure, obstacles and challenges is essential to you and your business. Don’t be too hard on yourself, as failure leads to success as long as you continue to learn from that experience. Embrace your weaknesses and then capitalize on your strengths.
8. Prepare for Conflict Beforehand
I believe the best way to face conflict is to prepare for the situation before it ever comes up. I have a quarterly meeting with the other founders where we talk about potential roadblocks and how we can overcome them as a team. If you’re prepared for conflict before it arrives, you’ll have a much greater chance of conquering these issues.
9. Be Solution-Oriented
Understand that conflict is part of the game. Once you accept that there will always be issues or conflicts to some extent, you can then work on becoming a solution-oriented leader. That way, when you face conflict, it becomes a mere matter of getting the job done and fixing the problem versus having to accept there’s a conflict in the first place, which is the hardest part of it all.
10. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Daily
Work to improve your emotional intelligence every day. I think most of the time we are not comfortable with external conflicts because of our own internal conflicts. Remember that the best decisions are made calmly, without getting carried away by emotions, and by analyzing the facts very well. However, this personal mastery is not achieved overnight, so you must work on this process constantly.
11. Start With Self-Management
Conflict management starts with self-management. Conflict is inevitable and part of growth. When you develop a mindfulness routine and set and enforce boundaries, you’re more likely to welcome conflict. Those who don’t deal with conflict well might neglect a self-reflection routine, and this can stifle growth.
12. Look Into ‘Metacognition’
It’s a good idea to do some research on metacognition, or the ability to view one’s feelings and thoughts as separate from the self. Instead of feeling like you’re in constant conflict, you’ll start seeing that you have experiences where conflicts occur and that they come and go. Mindfulness and meditation practices make it easier to keep from getting overwhelmed by daily conflict.
13. Stay Calm and Listen
Embrace conflict without running from it. You have to accept that it’s a normal, and even healthy, part of living a professional life. When a conflict situation arises, stay calm and voice your concerns. But, more than that, lend an ear to the other party. If you can’t work something out by listening, bring in a neutral third-party mediator (even if they’re just a trusted colleague).
14. Learn to Enjoy the Process
Reframe your mindset to accept adversity as part of the process. No entrepreneur will say success was easy to attain. There is a lot of work and challenges each day, and those who are successful think of them as opportunities to learn and improve. Just like professional athletes enjoy practice, when you can come to enjoy the process and see new problems coming, you are able to tackle them head-on.
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.