Resolving conflict situations can be difficult for many managers. There are many factors to consider when we help others negotiate their way through conflict. I start with questions to learn about the situation. My goal? To find a way that will help my coaches to resolve the situation as quickly and as equitably as possible. The right question asked at the right time can make all the difference.
My role as coach which can include guide, teacher, storyteller, or trainer plays an important part in helping my client find a solution and create possibility. I do that by:
- listening without judgment,
- sorting through the elements of the story and
- asking questions so that the solution all but tumbles out.
One of the greatest tools we have is the question. The right question asked to the right person at the right time can shift the course of action in a number of ways. Questions expand, create, generate, demand, entice, provoke, encourage, challenge, and open doors to a world where few enter as willingly as they might if the answer is provided.
Let’s look at a situation and the use of possible questions that a manager might ask to improve understanding and cooperation between two team members.
A Common Conflict
The “he said/she said” syndrome. Imagine this scenario: The manager is made aware of verbal altercations between two team members. These team members’ conflict relates to negative comments made about and to each other. Each team member claims they did not say what the other thought they heard. The manager must now resolve the conflict.
What questions would you ask to improve understanding and cooperation between the team members? Here are a few to get you started:
Opening question: Would you tell me more about what happened?
Clarifying question: When you hear negative comments, how do you determine the intent?
Focusing questions: What is your part in this situation?
Hypothetical question: What would happen if you didn’t respond?
Alternative question: Would you rather keep this going or find a way to go about your day without this kind of distraction?
We all approach situations differently – our experience, knowledge of the individuals and time constraints can make the difference. For your next coaching opportunity, stop and consider how you can use the “power of the question” to bring resolution to conflict and coach powerfully.