Conflict is an inevitable part of leadership, especially in education where we have a high level of emotional engagement among stakeholders. Wisdom becomes an even more critical asset for us to overcome the resulting tensions and dysfunctional behaviors.
In our executive coaching resources for members of the School Growth Network, we include these guidelines to more wisely negotiate resolutions that support your mission and values.
Anyone can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not easy.
Unresolved conflict is a disease in school culture. Very seldom do those people or those issues just go away. Instead, they usually fester and become more infectious.
A leadership team that is lacking in the disciplines of Communication and Cohesiveness is especially vulnerable to the resulting carnage of conflict. It may be...
... a teacher who expresses grievances to students and parents.
... an employee who is stubbornly resolved not to change and adapt.
... a parent who becomes upset and rallies others.
... internal competition that pits one division against another.
When faced with these situations we have a human tendency to assume the lowest motivations of others and to fear the worst outcomes. Anxiousness can be self-inflicted through what-if thinking that only exists in our imagination.
False Expectations Appearing Real is a useful explanation for those fears that limit our possibilities.
Resolving conflict and repairing relationships begins with understanding the underlying perspectives and feelings, and then creating a principle-based solution that sustains the culture and engagement of our people.
1. Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria
Finding a solution can become a collaborative learning journey that is a pursuit of growth and wisdom. Focus on the key question(s) and find trustworthy sources of data and expertise to inform the solution.
2. Reasonably determine which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied
Cooperatively evaluate independent sources to ensure validity and impact. Avoid the temptation to only utilize points that support one position--authentic listening and willing learning is an asset in negotiating with integrity.
3. Seek wise counsel to validate criteria and learn how others have resolved similar questions
Sometimes it's helpful to mutually choose someone to review the questions and criteria to ensure the wisest process and decision. Humility will contribute to our goal of resolving the conflict in an honorable and respectful manner.
The more we run from conflict, the more it masters us;
The more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us;
The less we fear conflict, the less it confuses us;
The less we deny our differences, the less they divide us.
– David Augsburger