Thursday, February 19, 2015

What my sons taught me about conflicts management

I am a proud father of two kids.
The elder is six years old, and the younger is three.
They get along very well but sometimes, as you may imagine, they quarrel like two cheetah cubs.

Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo via Compfight cc
The reason is usually something insignificant, like a disagreement on who has to perform Captain America and Red Skull or the temporary possession of a toy car. Nonetheless, on these occasions, the temperature rises quite quickly, and the situation can easily degenerate into an open fight.

Once, I thought the best way to handle this kind of conflicts, were to stop them in the bud, imposing a pacification that would take into account the reasons of both the children.
I soon realized that this policy was highly ineffective.

The kids ceased quarrelling or fighting, but you could sense that the conflict was not solved at all. You could feel that the fire was hidden under the ashes, ready to burn out again.

Even worse, it seemed to me that my kids were not learning from these experiences and that the more I tried to solve conflicts, the more conflictual situations arose.

The sandbox
The family is a safe environment, a kind of sandbox where kids can learn how to relate to other people. It is inside the family that children make their first experiences managing conflicts, that can arise between them and their brothers or friends.
This kind of domestic workout is a kind of training to the challenges that children will face during their lives. In the family, they can learn how far they can push, in order to assert themselves without breaking relationships. They can exercise managing their rage without emotively hurting other people, to solve problems in efficient ways.
How can they sharpen up these skills, if parents stop these activities, imposing their idea of pacification?

Obviously, I don't mean that children should be left alone to solve their problems, or that quarrels should be let degenerate in open fights. I just believe that it's healthy to a relationship, that conflicts arise and be let flare up a little in a controlled environment. Parents' mediation still is essential but should not be too cumbersome or too stifling. Parents should try to lead the children towards an agreement, but should be the children to decide the terms.

A lesson in project management
I won't go as far to say that a project manager should behave like a father or a mother to the project team; it wouldn't be appropriate, nor there would be the need.

Still, conflicts management inside the project management team is paramount, especially in the forming and storming phases of the team's lifecycle. These are the moments in which team members learn to know each other and start confronting, walking out their comfort zone and stepping into other team members' ones.
These are the most critical circumstances, in which a project manager, with his/her conflict management strategy, can facilitate or impede the transition toward the norming and performing stages. These are situations, in which a project manager, with his/her actions or omissions, can prevent that the team becomes dysfunctional and ineffective.

I would advise adopting the sandbox approach I mentioned before.
Let's not suppress conflicts in the bud. Let's have them to flare up a little in a controlled environment, and let's help people involved to become the actual protagonists of the mediation phases.
This kind of conflict management strategy, based on the empowerment of the people involved, will minimize future conflictual situations and will also contribute to the professional growth of the team members.

Licenza Creative Commons
Quest' opera รจ distribuita con licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Unported.

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