Conflict awareness, management and prevention.

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Linda Laurance at the Wales Charity Law and Governance Conference 2014.

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Conflict awareness, management and prevention.

  1. 1. Linda Laurance Linda Laurance & Associates Conflict Awareness, Management and Prevention
  2. 2.  Governance specialist  Accredited mediator  Independent consultant and trainer since 1993  Established LL&A in 2002  Formerly Chair and CEO  Chaired steering groups for original VCS Code of Governance and for the NOS for trustees/management committees
  3. 3.  First we need to look at disharmony – let’s face it and not be afraid of it  The origins of conflict  Understanding anger  Working relationships  ‘Elephant traps’ – unintended consequences  Knowing when to ask for help  and then………
  4. 4.  Techniques for avoiding disagreements  Maintaining trust  Moving on
  5. 5.  Conflict can be defined as:  people holding opposing views and aiming at different goals  a competitive win/lose situation  incompatible activities and behaviours  the outcome of perceptions and unfulfilled expectations
  6. 6.  Disputes need not be destructive or unproductive  Conflict does not essentially mean that we have to win our position at another’s expense: there are many different ways to handle given situations – we do have choice  Many disputes have a positive outcome, with long term benefits not only for those directly involved
  7. 7. Factors present in people:  Language/jargon  Body language  Written words – emails/Twitter!  Rumour  Misrepresentation  Hidden agendas
  8. 8. Factors present in people:  Lack of compatibility  Gender and age differences  Diversity  Differences in values  Spill over of stress or anger from unrelated issues  Harassment
  9. 9. Factors present in Boards/Committees:  Lack of leadership  Lack of decision making  Poor internal communication  Poor external communication  Lack of resources  Lack of motivation/training opportunities
  10. 10. Factors present in Boards/Committees:  High levels of pressure and lack of time  Interpretation of organisational policy/implementation  Prioritisation  Organisational change  Delegation
  11. 11. Factors present in perceptions of the situation:  Expectations and beliefs  Differences in opinions  Misunderstandings  Misplaced assumptions
  12. 12. Understanding anger……….
  13. 13. Once anger is aroused it has several effects that reduce an individual’s ability to deal with conflict successfully:  A desire to retaliate against the person perceived as causing the harm or frustration  A reduced ability to make rational plans of action and to evaluate the potential outcomes of behaviour
  14. 14.  Together these can lead to a shift away from collaboration towards more competitive tactics for dealing with the conflict and/or a counter-attack on the other party, escalating into a destructive exchange where the parties become more concerned with hurting each other than with solving the problems.
  15. 15.  As a general rule, therefore, anger in conflict needs to be dealt with before the concrete issues are addressed
  16. 16. Factors present in groups and teams:  Pressure to conform to the group  Formation of cliques  Assumptions about others  Misuse of authority  Perceived favouritism  Manipulation
  17. 17.  The competitive ‘marketplace’ results in continual change and uncertainty  Electronic communication means that individuals may have to deal with conflicts with people they cannot even see  Mergers may require people to work with others who have different values and ways of working from those that they are used to
  18. 18.  The governing document – the what?  Appointing good people but not thinking about skills and experience  Lack of clarity between governance and operational responsibilities  The ‘corporate mind’ v the ‘user’s angle’  Meeting agendas!
  19. 19.  The Strategic Plan  Conflicts of interest  Values  The relationship between the Chair and the Chief Officer (if there are paid employees)
  20. 20. The role of the Chair:  Managing  Engaging  Focusing  Balancing calculated risk and risk aversion  Decision making  Supporting and monitoring the CEO  Who is supporting the Chair??
  21. 21. Board decisions are collective – the minutes should record anyone who is opposed to a proposal or who abstains, but that person must comply with the majority agreement and not take their personal view outside the committee – and certainly not to the media!
  22. 22. It is not a sign of failure if you need to ask:  A neutral third party  A facilitator to help reach a consensus  A mediator where parties are unable to find their way forward
  23. 23. For the Board/committee:  A Code of Conduct  Clarify role boundaries/areas of responsibility  Set down delegated powers in writing  Regularly review priorities  Respect and nourish diversity
  24. 24. For the Board/committee:  Communication –  Who needs to know what, how and by when?
  25. 25.  Time in which to get to know each other – social time  Time for the chair to talk one-to-one with each Board/committee member to find out if they have any problems/concerns about their role  Time to let the Chair know if you plan to raise an issue at the next meeting
  26. 26.  Performance – how is the Board/committee doing? - use the Good Governance Code for the Third Sector in Wales  Skills check – do you have the skills and knowledge you need to be an effective Board?  What can you learn from other similar sized organisations?
  27. 27.  Listen with your full attention  Be clear about your own responsibilities but flexible in helping others  Ask questions when a situation is unclear  Look for the common ground when discussing opposing views  Avoid making judgments/assumptions  Be aware of personal prejudices
  28. 28.  Respect confidentiality  Resist the temptation to share details of a disagreement with people not directly involved: it encourages factions, and can lead to escalation of what may be a minor localised difficulty  When a dispute arises deal with it  Separate the person from the problem
  29. 29.  Resolve  Record  Reconcile  Regroup  Rejoice!

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