A dove is a symbol of peace, but do black feathers make it a shark?
Peaceful co-existence is the most desirable situation for both personal and professional lives but a situation of maximum and uninterrupted peace is neither existing nor attainable where different people interact to assert their unique individuality and different personalities. Perhaps it is in order to think such utopia of peacefulness exists only in the grave where there are no exchanges of thoughts and actions.
It is only natural for most people to avoid conflicting with others but at the same time, there are people who seem to prefer seizing every conflict opportunity around them. They come across as often critical of other people’s idea and actions. This is neither good nor bad, it all depends on the causes and motives of the conflicts. Criticality is founded mostly on deep thinking and assessment of the details or facts surrounding an idea or action but not all critiques derive from or lead to a conflict of opinions or actions. It is therefore advisable to encourage critical views or opinions and avoid seeing them as an intention to foment troubles.
Every professional involved with business interactions and exchange of information or ideas for the progress and success of their teams should encourage critical reflections and therefore envisage conflicts. While it is difficult or probably impossible for any manager or leader to control how members of his team think, act or react differently on the same issue, it is advisable that he understands the outcome of those differences in personal thoughts, opinions offered and actions.
Encouraging critical personal reflection allows each member of a team to question their own thoughts and assumptions before they could reach a balanced conclusion. They ask critical questions on the thoughts and conclusion of their mates also, which enables them to refine choices and causes of action available to them. The popular maxim that two heads are better than one is a truism but definitely not without the probability of contrasting views and opinions except if one or both heads are not working as they should.
Diversity is a modern business practice advocated by studies all over the world, and the United Nations asserts that diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. The UN also describes it as “a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”.
However, it is important to note that this noble concept and invaluable practice of encouraging variations, which totally mirrors humanity, often implies accepting other people regardless of differences. In this regard, those differentiations are not limited to tribe, culture, gender or language. Different knowledge, experiences and levels of understanding of a particular concept, situation or issue always result in differences in thoughts, opinions and ideas. Expressing these differences often come across as criticism or disagreement and pathways to conflicts.
In a situation or environment of diversity, it is difficult to accept contrary views and ideas. Although they are inevitable, they should be viewed as opportunities to embrace diversity, expand the scope of individual reflections and find a balance that is mutually acceptable and inclusive. A hybrid conclusion or solution offers a more robust and inclusive outcome that appeals across the board and offers motivation for all stakeholders whose views have been considered, even if not implemented.
As expected, allowing each member of a team to contribute their views and assert their interests as much as possible would often attract criticality and conflicts. Notwithstanding, such developments should be treated as parts of the process of progress and resolved as often and much as possible. When criticality is taken as feedback and conflicts as the process of enlarging probable outcomes, teams and businesses should be better off. It fosters mutual understanding, bonding and promotes trust each time a conflict is thoroughly and sincerely resolved.
It is a good business skill for managers to know how to handle critiques and understand the process by which conflicts develop, so they are able to manage them and make the best use of the opportunities they present.
At the ISM Lagos, we offer a seminal course on Business Negotiation and Conflicts Resolution Techniques. Our course design is based on extensive research and experiences and our faculty lead the conversation based on practical exposures gained over years of practising and teaching the same set of skills.