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15 Ways to Manage Conflicts on Your Team

In every project, workplace, office, and team, conflict will occur. It’s not possible to avoid it, but what you do to manage it can define the success of your engineering or architectural firm. To truly define your success, consider these simple-to-implement conflict management strategies.

#1: Focus on productivity

When managing conflict on the spot, aim for a solution that improves productivity rather than one that focuses on drawing out the conclusion. In short, stop the problem, and set a time to discuss it thoroughly after the task at hand is complete.

#2: Realize conflict stems from perceived misunderstandings

In nearly all situations, conflict starts and builds from the perceived incompatibilities of individuals. This isn’t necessarily an actual incompatibility but rather one that one or both individuals believe. By communicating this, you, as the project manager or team leader can stop the misunderstanding taking place.

#2: It’s often about feelings

Many people are passionate about the way they feel and what they believe. When someone else has an opposing view, a conflict can easily arise. However, you can often use team building exercises to show that, even if two people don’t seem to have the same view, they can work together.

#3: Acknowledge the conflict

The biggest mistake you can make is in not acknowledging there is a problem. Don’t avoid it, push it to the side, or just “let it alone.” State that you understand a conflict is present.

#4: Watch for the first signs of struggle

It’s easier to fix a problem when you can spot the conflict early on. Address the first bickering or communication undertones right away. If it seems like there’s a problem, or could be one, address it.

#5: Sometimes, people need to talk it out

Bring two parties into the office for a frank discussion. Provide them both with the opportunity to state their opinion and concerns. Don’t favor either. Just listen and let them work through it.

#6: Discuss the impact

Every conflict in any project will have an impact. Discuss what that is with the team. Make it clear that it is the conflict (not the individuals) which is putting the project on the line.

#7: Get people to agree that a solution is necessary

To manage the conflict with your team, you initially do not need them to agree on a solution. First, they need to agree that a resolution is necessary.

#8: Then, agree to communicate

Once they agree that a solution is necessary, everyone involved needs to agree to communicate respectfully to find a solution.

#9: Find some common ground

Discussions start when people let their guard down. To do this, find some common ground for the two or more people to agree on.

#10: Talk about the issue in a formal discussion

Level heads are important here. Talking through conflicts is critical, though rarely easy to do when everyone is angry or frustrated. Those are valid feelings. Recognize the need for a calm conversation.

#11: Make a list

When individuals cannot see eye-to-eye, sometimes it takes making a list. Write down the facts of the situation. Write down assumptions and beliefs as well. Clarify each position with each person.

#12: What can we agree on?

Asking open-ended conversations instead of offering a decision on your own is important. The goal here is to get people to come to an agreement together. Questions like this can help to get people thinking about the solution rather than the problem.

#13: Should we continue this conversation?

It’s a valid question and one that you need all parties to agree to in order to move on. Allowing people to voice all of their thoughts and opinions is important. Only once they do this will they agree to move on.

#14: Determine what each person wants to occur

Conflict management often comes down to you, as the manager, making a decision about the outcome. However, for that to happen, you need to know what everyone involved believes as the best solution – at this point, after having a thorough conversation.

#15: Make key decisions as the leader

Ultimately, the project manager needs to make a decision to resolve the conflict. Everyone at the table needs to agree to your decision. And, you need to document what occurs and what the end result was for later reference.

In many cases, conflict management is all about structuring and overseeing a conversation. Eventually, people can vent, listen, and overcome the communication problem or other areas of concern. Your job is to organize and manage the conflict resolution.

13 Ways to Become a Better Project Manager

No matter how many projects you’re juggling, one thing is clear, all of the weight of potential success for your business is on your shoulders. You know your team has the experience and skill. It’s up to you to lead them from the initial proposal to project completion. To do that, you need to be the best project manager possible. Incorporate these tips to become a better project manager at your firm.

#1: Realize your can’t do it all yourself

A project manager’s job is to oversee, not to be doing all the work him or herself. To deliver the very best product to your client, you need to ensure you are leading. Don’t assume you can do it better. Whether it’s in the actual drawings or in scheduling meetings, allow your team to work for you and through you to get the job done. Delegate.

#2: Ask questions and listen

Don’t just go through the motions of completing a project even if you fully believe you understand the scope of it. Rather, show your team and your client that you care about their complete satisfaction by asking questions. By involving many people in the consultations and meetings, you present an opportunity to not only clarify key points, but also to build rapport within your team. Remember to listen – you just might learn something.

#3: Create priorities for each project

A key component of success is not just meeting the clients’ goals, but exceeding their expectations. To achieve this, create priorities and goals for each project. Inform and direct each of your team members towards accomplishing these tasks. If you don’t know where the goal is, how can you excel?

#4: Maintain a natural authority

Skilled project managers don’t have to lay down the rules or borrow the power of another manager or business owner. Rather, they are leaders who show their skill by leading – a skill that comes from commanding a natural authority.

#5: Reassure your team that they can do it

Let’s face it – getting bogged down in a project with endless complications can easily sour any deal and create difficulties within your team. The best way to overcome this is through reassuring your team that they can do it. Being the cheerleader from the sidelines doesn’t always mean having the answers, but rather encouraging the team to find them.

#6: Be thorough

To really command success, ensure you’ve thought about the details. Take your time in creating a plan that’s as thorough as possible.

#7: Share your vision

It’s also important to give direction as a project manager. You can’t just lead them to success. It’s important to show them what your vision really is.

#8: Always respect each member of your team

Respect their opinions, needs, ideas, and concerns. Respect isn’t an option for a project manager. It’s often a defining determinant of either successful relationships or disgruntled employees.

#9: Communicate regularly

Set up tools and resources to allow you to communicate on each project with your team seamlessly. That’s critical. You’ll want to check in each day or every few hours, as needed.

#10: Say what you really mean

People make mistakes, have bad ideas or just plain don’t do what they should. As the manager of the project, its success depends on your ability to correct these mistakes, inform them of the proper solutions and to overcome communication barriers. Don’t belittle, turn it into a learning experience.

#11: Do what you say you will

If you promise a client a set progress plans by noon, get them there. If you tell your team, they are off at 5 for the day, don’t call afterward – it can wait until tomorrow. Do what you say you will do.

#12: Be available

Both to the client and to your staff, it’s important to be available. Listen, guide, and most importantly, keep them on track.

#13: Be organized

A key part of your success when balancing numerous projects is having the means and ability to remain organized. That’s not always easy to do, but it is something that you should aim for on every detail.

The right software and tools can help you to remain successful. As an architect or engineer, it’s up to you to use project management software that can ensure each detail is always at the forefront of the project.

A Day in Winnipeg

From the desk of Doug Rawson, PE – founder of Base Builders.

I recently spoke at the 2014 Festival of Architecture in Winnipeg, Canada. This annual conference is put on by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. My session was all about business and practice management ideas.

Principals for managing a business cross all borders whether is it in Canada or the US, because the basic principles are the same.  Businesses have to run an effect and efficient operation if they are going to make profits. Which are key to running a successful and long-lasting business.

The audience in Canada was awesome; we had a large group of enthusiastic architects all looking to enhance their revenues and increase profits. We covered company profits, cash flow, and techniques for improving both. Overall I believe it was very well received and I am hoping that those who attended will go back and improve their operations at their offices and hopefully will be in business for a long time.

One of the keys to running a great business is measuring the success on your projects and comparing projects against each other. You need to analyze how and where you are making the most money. Do you do better with a certain type of project or perhaps a particular client type? To do this analysis many firms duck tape a bunch of spreadsheets together. What we do at Base Builders is take all the information that you need, and put it into a database software solution so that it does the analyzing for you. Our solution, Praesto AE, empowers you with the information you need to make the right business decisions.