One of the biggest issues I see when working on improvement programmes is people’s inability to gain consensus and move forward with the improvement.

Conflict is one of the biggest barriers to landing an improvement in an organisation whether it’s your idea being in conflict with compliance or IT or even within your own team, it’s a conflict that grinds the pace of improvement to a halt and the issue is that we’re not that we’re not great at having difficult conversations. I don’t think we were ever good at it and nowadays we’re even worse. With all the different ways of communicating these days via mail or text message or social media and Facebook. All sorts of ways we can communicate, we got even worse at managing conflict. And all those different channels of communication they rarely resolve conflict. They just either avoid it or in many cases compound it.

I’ve watched teams argue back and forth about the best solution to a problem and see nothing happens for two and three and six months and it’s not just limited to Improvement projects. These days people will break up over text, they’ll resign or give critical feedback over email. People even get fired through Facebook. We’re terrible at having difficult conversations and managing conflict.

We’re moving offices in a couple of months and we currently service offices and we’re moving into our own offices which is totally the right call for our business but it means I have to go and tell which is totally the right call for our business but it means I have to go and tell our current Office Manager that we won’t be renewing our lease and that we will be leaving and she’s great and I felt really bad about having to have this conversation. But I could have easily done it via email but I thought it was an opportunity to go and have a difficult conversation and practice that skill. I’ve also had to give difficult feedback to clients in the past and every time that that has happened our relationship has gotten better because of it and the programme of workers delivered more as well.

I’ve seen experts on LinkedIn walk about the importance of giving feedback and managing conflict but when they’re faced with those very same situations, you know, they run a mile and just do it via email. So, the next time that you have to have a difficult conversation with someone or give some feedback, or manage some conflict, try to do it face to face. it’s not going to be easy, but if you can’t do it face to face, then pick up the phone. Use that experience to learn about how you could have approached it differently. What went well? Or didn’t go well? How they’ve approached it? And what you could have done differently to get a different outcome.

Practice is the absolute best way to develop this skill.