Keeping the Peace

Posted by Alana Kadden Ballon on Jul 30, 2014

Peace has been on my mind lately. Typically, at this point in the summer, I would write about keeping your team motivated in the summer to build pipeline, execute on projects and get ready for the approaching year-end push, but given all that is happening in the world, I can’t muster it.

More than one client has mentioned that the current violent conflicts have had an impact on their ability to focus. Indeed, research shows that conflict makes it difficult to focus on the task at hand, increases negative attitudes, suspicion, reduces confidence, and as the conflict grows, it can become less about the underlying issue and more about power and being “right” (Deutsch, 2006).

Although global violent conflict is much more serious than the conflict between two or more organizational groups, in my mind some of their causes are shared. This conflict is commonly associated with sales and marketing, but we’ve seen it between sales and services, services and finance and more. Internal organizational conflict can have a significant impact on your team’s productivity and the ability to be productive. Often times, clients engage us to help them navigate internal relationships and maximize the resources from each team.

Since I can’t do much about global violence, I’m thinking about keeping the peace at work instead. Below are three tips to creating peace among groups at your organization.

1. Identify common goals with underlying objectives.

Each team has different goals and objectives, but need each other to get work done. In sales and marketing, sales needs marketing to create a stellar brand, materials for presentations and distribution and generate leads. Marketing needs sales to follow-up on and close the leads, using the marketing materials, in order for the business to thrive.
Different teams must come together to come together to identify their common goals as an overall organization and the individual team objectives that serve those goals. Returning to this common goal can help create clarity when individuals or teams blame others for situations that arise. Some organizations create goals and objectives each year, others leave it to the individual teams.

If your organization doesn’t already create goals, ask yourselves:
What are we trying to achieve? (Next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 24 months)
What needs to be done to achieve these goals?

2. Define roles and responsibilities.

After you have defined your goal and objectives, create a path to achieve those objectives with individuals strategies and tasks. Then, assign the appropriate person from each team to be responsible for each component. Start by simply answering the question: Who is going to do what?

Ask yourselves:
What is my teams’ role in achieving our organizational goals?
What can we contribute in service to these goals?

With mutual agreement, conflict will still come up, but when it does, you will have a foundation to return to and reset the relationship by reviewing what was agreed upon and assessing what updates need to be made as the organization changes.

2a. Regular check-ins.

Priorities change, your goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities will too. It is
important to treat them as such and set aside time to reaffirm expectations. Regularly checking-in and assessing your progress towards the agreed upon plans keeps everyone on the same team. If you have proactively set-up these meetings, it will hold the team accountable and you will be working from the same list. Without this, each team tends to create expectations individually that aren’t agreed to and aren’t met, causing additional conflict.

3. Determine the appropriate venues to discuss conflict.

It’s going to come up, and instead of hoping that it won’t, plan together for how you will deal with it. Too often, we see conflicts played out in front of the entire organization at a large gathering or in a board meeting. By setting aside time specifically to discuss dissatisfaction, realign goals, roles and expectations, you can prevent the conflict from spilling over into other venues and stalling work that needs to be completed.
This can be incorporated into your regular check-ins, or you can create a joint plan for when and how you will work as a team to bring up conflict and issues, before they boil over.

Deutsch, M. (2006). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution. M. Deutsch, P. Coleman, E. Marcus (Eds.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.