During an alignment, team members take an objective look at how, as a team, they handle conflict. They look into the collective mirrorat the results of their self-assessmentto become aware of the dysfunctional behaviors that they have been engaging in as a group , such as going underground , triangulating, deferring to the leader, avoiding decision making, or abdicating responsibility. They then develop protocols, or ground rules, that are designed to stop dysfunctional practices in their tracks. Becoming aligned around goals and roles are other important steps the group takes toward working, as a team, in a new way.
Much of the "fun" of conflict management begins with the discussion of business relationships. Let's face it: Concepts such as organization and team are abstract. It is easy for me to depersonalize when I am talking about my company or my department, but it is more difficult to do when I am talking about me. A moment of truth in conflict management occurs when the action shifts to the individual: when team members look, individually, into the mirror, then compare the way they see themselves as nonassertive, assertive, or aggressive with their colleagues' view of them. These actions get to the core of conflict managementthe interactions that occur between individuals within the social space of organizations.
This self-assessment beginsand only beginsduring the alignment session. It continues, in much greater depth, afterward.
We suggest approaching individual aspects of conflict management very strategically. First, use team alignment as a platform to resolve larger, organizational issues. Then, move on to developing individual conflict-management skills. Here, timing is everything. If you fold the skill-building portion into the team alignment, you risk team overload; if you wait too long, momentum fizzles. That is the reason that individual skill building should take place as soon as possible after the alignment session.
The following pages will focus on the specific skills each individual needs to acquire and the ways in which these skills facilitate conflict resolution.