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December 4, 2012
How to Effectively Resolve Complex Conflicts in 5 Steps
The effective resolution of conflicts accounts for one of the major key skills needed to stand out as a leader in the 21st century. A UK survey by Roffey Park found that "46% of managers have seen an increase in conflict at work." I personally have been conducting research on 90+ Megaprojects (with an average investment volume of 500M US$) that I have been running in over 25 countries for the last 20 years, and I found out that unresolved conflicts account for a cost overrun of more than 15% in 50% of all projects.

Given the enormous cost and emotional stress triggered by unresolved conflicts, I have been developing a conflict resolution model called “SOLVE.” The model has been applied successfully in various intercultural conflict situations between Joint Venture partners, project teams, and stakeholders, which in turn resulted not only in avoiding the extra costs of unresolved conflicts but also an additional savings of up to 10%. It does not even require the involvement of a mediator if one party is really willing to assume the leadership role for resolving the conflict. Authentic and (self) leadership applied by one of the conflicting parties is one of the prerequisites for successfully implementing “SOLVE” in any situation. While traditional mediation often fails, resolution-driven leadership has a much higher chance for success.

1. Self-Reflection
This step forces you to get detached from emotions and anger.
  • Ask yourself: What has been my personal contribution to the conflict?
  • Adopt a so-called “meta-position”: Develop empathy and try to understand the emotions behind the other party.
  • Apply appreciative inquiry: Brainstorm options of why the other party might have entered or started a conflict. It opens your mindset for a first set of solutions.
  • Ask yourself for the real reasons behind a conflict: Wrong intentions (personal gains), conflicting goals, "unspoken" expectations are not met, reputation and recognition might be at stake, real needs of counterpart are not understood and met, promises are not fulfilled, personal anger and fear, lack of tactfulness (language barriers).
  • Understand the human nature.
  • Identify your personal barriers (fears, doubts, wrong assumptions).
  • What is at stake (personal sense of urgency) if we do not manage to resolve the conflict?
2. Open the Dialogue
This step requires that you as the leader for resolving the conflict is coaching both parties (even if you are part of one conflict party).
  • Ask for the real needs of both parties.
  • Identify emotional and other barriers on both sides.
  • Clarify the higher cause (goals): Conflict parties have mostly forgotten what they should really fight for, such as attaining a joint goal .
  • Asses the external environment and identify disturbing factors (economy, politics, third parties who are involved in the conflict).
  • Identify supporters on both sides.
  • Coach the supporters on skills of emotional resilience.
3. Lead the Process
  • Pull the collaboration team together (supporters from both sides have to be involved).
  • Pre-define a joint goal.
  • Mentor on rules and guidelines for the upcoming “conflict resolution” workshop.
  • Practice complete transparency (be open, let information freely flow on both sides).
  • Help to build up trust.
4. Valuing Reconciliation
This step builds the conflict-resolution workshop, lasting between one and two days.
  • Set the rules for the workshop (for example: openness, mutual respect, listening skills, leave room for personal concerns).
  • Parties commit to the rules (sign a paper).
  • Create incentives for sticking to the rules.
  • Discuss and understand conflicting goals.
  • Define the joint goal.
  • Clarify and understand the barriers concerning the joint goal.
  • Brainstorm options for meeting the goal.
  • Define an action plan, set deadlines, and allocate responsibilities.
5. Enforce Results and Success Stories
This steps aims at repeating SOLVE on a regular basis.
  • Focus on results and celebrate success stories (perform follow-up workshops).
  • Meet on a regular basis.
  • Repeat the SOLVE process and cement trust-building.

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Andreas Dudàs. Swiss, visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker, and expert on authentic leadership. More than 20 years experience in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Founder of the BE SHiRO Group in Switzerland and India, dedicated to empower individuals and organizations to achieve greatness through authenticity. Author of “Do you dare to be yourself? Developing power in life and leadership through authenticity." Learn more about Andreas at www.andreasdudas.com/book.
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