3 Strategies for Resolving Conflict

f there is one thing that regularly cripples effective teams, it’s conflict.

We’ve all seen this.

There’s an incredibly talented football team that is a preseason pick to win it all but the team underperforms when it matters because the players can’t get along.

There’s a seasoned and skilled executive team that go nuclear because of relational strife.

There’s a growing church that loses momentum because the executive pastor and the teaching pastor can’t seem to get on the same page.

We’ll all seen it and we’ve all been a part of it. The thing is, we can’t avoid conflict. We live and lead in a fallen world. The question is not, how do we avoid conflict, but rather, how do we navigate conflict in our leadership teams?

I have three strategies that have worked well on my team.

1. Prepare for Conflict with Relationships

Here’s an obvious but important truth: I handle conflict differently with people I love and people I, well… don’t love.

You know what I mean because you do the same thing. With people we love, we tend to be more patient, more understanding, more empathetic and more honest. With people we don’t like or don’t know, we tend to assume the worst.

Because of this, the most important strategy for navigating conflict is to build strong relationships in your team. If your team cares about each other, they will be more honest, more trusting and more understanding. If your team doesn’t care about each other. Well, you are in trouble.

How do you build relationships? I have two ideas:

1. Relational Meetings

Start every team meeting with a relational component. It’s important that your team share about their personal lives and their stories. This will build trust and understanding. Do it regularly and often. Relationships take time.

2. Team Retreats

Start incorporating team retreats into your schedule. Why is this important? First, because we all act more like our authentic selves when our guard is down. Getting away from the regular schedule and responsibilities, finding a different space (like someone’s house or cottage), sharing a meal and hanging out in a disarming environment can do wonders for a team.

On our last retreat, we did little, other than eat together and answer three relational questions:

  1. What was the most important moment of your childhood?
  2. What was the most important moment of your teenage years?
  3. What has been the most important moment of your adult life?

It’s hard to explain the value of your team laughing and crying together. It builds a powerful sense of togetherness.

Secondly, shared experiences is a powerfully binding. Your team needs a few, “Remember when we…?” Shared memories, especially if they are funny or emotional, have the power to bind a team together.

Team retreats can become shared experiences. Go ahead and schedule one. You won’t regret it. If you don’t know what to do, go ahead and use my three questions.

Relationships pave the way for healthy conflict resolution. If I know your story, your passions and your quirks, I am much more likely to respond to you with maturity and grace when we disagree.

Read the rest of this post here.

Aaron Buer

Author: Aaron Buer

A little about me: I’ve been a student pastor for 12 years and currently serve as the student ministries pastor at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Ada Bible is a multi-site church of about 9,000. Most of my time is devoted to leading my amazing team, writing curriculum, teaching, and trying to navigate the challenges of multi-site church. I absolutely love my job and the people I am blessed to serve with. I’m primarily a family guy. My wife and I have five incredibly awesome and unique kids. Most of my free time is devoted to them. When I can find time for me, I love beach volleyball, writing, fishing, video games or a good book.

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