ways to improve your problem solving skills

Conflict and Problems

Tip 3, Week 3: Is it a problem or a conflict?

Last week, we looked at separating facts from assumptions in decision making.  Here’s our third post in the series about better decision making when we look at problems or conflicts.  This week Trent Moy from Halide looks at is it a problem or a conflict?

Tip 3, Week 3: Is it a problem or a conflict?

Humans are good at solving problems.  If you look at the advances we have made with technology, medicine, aviation safety, etc, you can see that we really are quite clever at solving complex problems.  By ‘problem’ I mean the sort of thing that can be solved by thinking clearly (and sometimes creatively) about causes, effects, and solutions.

However, in running a business many of the difficult decisions that we have to make are not related to logical problems.  Those decisions relate to ‘conflicts’ or they relate to a problem that has been complicated by a conflict.  A conflict involves emotions, not logic. 

Think about some emotional conflicts you, or your staff, may experience in your work week:
“Those idiots just told us that our delivery is running late, yet again – I should never have trusted them”;
“Why haven’t you spoken to that customer and resolved their complaint yet?”;
“I told her that I would re-do the job and she is still unhappy”; 
“All those casual staff want to do is look at their phones rather than work.”

These comments are all hints that your business has emotional conflicts, not just logical problems. (You may have had an emotional conflict with a customer or staff member before reading this article).

Because most of us don’t want to be counsellors or UN peace negotiators, and we have no time or interest in ‘playing games’, we can often misread situations as straightforward problems that can be solved.  We skip over the importance of the associated emotional conflict and downplay the effect it is having on the issue.  And we can under estimate the effect of our own emotions on the quality of our decisions.

One of the most difficult type of conflicts to resolve is when somebody feels that their values (fairness, integrity, loyalty, honesty, transparency etc) have been ignored or stomped on.  Those values are the fuel that feeds the fire of our emotions.  We need to deliberately connect our values with the values of other people before we move on to trying to logically solve a problem. 

Here’s a tip:  When faced with a complex decision, see if you can spot the conflicts as well as the problems.  You can’t resolve other people’s emotional conflicts for them, but your chances of negotiating a successful outcome will be better if you can acknowledge and ‘speak to their values’ before speaking to their logical brain.

Want more info on resolving problems and conflicts, email Trent trent.moy@halide.com.au or comment below.  For more great tips, stay tuned for Tip 4 next week.

About Trent Moy

Trent Moy, the founding Principal of Halide is a business consultant that specialises in decision making and leadership skills.  He is an independent adviser on ethics and on how businesses can achieve better social and environmental outcomes. Trent has over 25 years of expertise in senior management roles, ethics and building motivating cultures.

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