Let’s Go There: Conflict Resolution

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Conflict. That’s right; we’re going to put it out there and get real in this blog post. With Conflict Resolution Day upon us (October 18th), I thought it was important to bring this issue to the forefront. However, as I was brainstorming ideas as to what to write, I decided to take a slightly different stance. I would like us to look at conflict (and conflict resolution) through the lens of a school leadership team member. Whether you’re a grade-level team leader, coach, department head, or administrator, with any leadership position comes a healthy dose of conflict (as a former principal, trust me!).

In my experience, the students are the ones who ultimately suffer if the adults don’t resolve their conflict. If that isn’t reason enough to get a little uncomfortable, then I don’t know what is. However, although uncomfortable, it’s important to embrace conflict and work toward making it a growth experience for the team. As with students, we want to confront the issue and, in an ideal world, resolve it. Let’s look at some practical tips to use when trying to resolve conflict in a team you lead.

  • Name the issue. Stick to the facts, rather than imposing judgment on team members. I like to compare this to techniques used when disciplining a child. We are told to separate the behavior from the child. The same applies here.
  • Be honest, but kind. Describe the impact that the conflict is having on others, whether it be the larger team, school culture, students, parents, etc.
  • Empower team members to problem solve and work towards a resolution. Think of yourself as a facilitator rather than the authority. In addition, try to ensure that all members of the team have a voice. You can guide, but let the team do most of the talking. As a leader, you should ask probing questions for deeper understanding and summarize, rather than offering your opinion. Have the team own it!
  • Communicate that you expect progress and will monitor it. My advice is to ensure the right balance of firmness and support, but not create reliance on the leader to provide a top-down resolution.
  • Keep it confidential. As a leader, it’s imperative to build trust with your team to create a positive school culture and climate.

So, let’s embrace the inevitable conflict as school leaders, and work toward turning them into growth opportunities for improvement.

About the author: Katy Garvey

Katy Garvey is the Social Learning Manager for Source for Learning, the non-profit parent company of TeachersFirst. She began her education career teaching Spanish before entering into administration. A former middle school principal, Katy spends her free time exercising and with her family.

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