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Here’s how (really) to achieve reconciliation

Submitted by on Tuesday, 3 September 2013No Comment

Here’s how to really achieve reconciliation

how to do reconciliationThe Good and the Great flew in to Thailand yesterday with their take on how to achieve reconciliation and – dare we say it – amnesty.

We are not, however, going to share with you how to do this on a society level (this is well-served enough by the plethora of politicians available), but what you can do when you need to resolve conflicts in your team or workgroup.

Let’s say that things have gone sideways for your team of late. Conflicts have arisen, and battlelines have been drawn up. You’re the team leader and notice this development with a certain amount of unease.

When things are going well, teamwork seems easy. But during times of struggle, heads drop and it’s all-too-easy to let things slip.

You’re the team leader, and as we’ve seen you want to get things back on track. What do you do?

Do this to overcome the seeds of conflict…

One approach you can take is to declare an amnesty.

This skill is covered in the second star of our Five Star Teams Programme, and involves surfacing conflict. Note the skill is not tackling the conflict (that’s a mistake we tend to make at our peril), but surfacing it.

Declaring an amnesty is one powerful way to do that.

Now I’m aware that many of our readers will be put off by the above word. After all, ‘amnesty’ has been kicked around by politicians like a tired old football in the local park. And I may go as far to say that these politicians have done so to such a degree, that they have brought the game into disrepute.

Please bear with us nonetheless, because here’s the way to ‘do’ an amnesty in your team rapidly, to the benefit of all…

How to implement an amnesty in your team – fast

Let’s go back to the situation you face. Gossip, backbiting and factionalism abound. These behaviours are impacting teamwork and, not only that, your team’s capacity to achieve its goals. Morale is sagging. Things are going south.

Here’s what you need to do…

1. Get your whole team together in a room with good natural light, a whiteboard or flip chart and packs of post-it notes.

2. Surface the conflict. Say that you feel the team is being affected by issues (touch on one or two as examples). Ask if they see it that way too? (You will usually get some form of acknowledgement if so).

3. Ask for their permission to surface some of these issues (important: not ‘resolve’, but ‘surface’). Lead with your heart. Say you really want to hear about these issues.

4. Ask everyone in the group take 10 minutes or so to write on a post-it the source of any major frustration they have with either the team as a whole, or with individual members, using one post-it for each topic, if they have more than one (most will). Ask them not to mention anyone by name.

Five Star Teams

5. After the time is up (or everyone has stopped writing), ask the team members stick their post-its on the whiteboard or flip chart, and send them off for a 10-minute break.

6. During the break, group the post-it notes in categories (put together all the post-its that cover the same topic or event) and from them produce a master list of every event, decision, statement, attitude or act that the team members have indicated is getting in the way of high-quality interaction.

7. Here’s the tricky part: When the group returns, go through the list, not inviting any further debate, but asking the group if they are prepared to declare a team ‘amnesty’ on those items. Clarify what you mean – to draw a line under them, to let their annoyance, resentment or frustration go, and to agree not to let those issues cloud their interactions over the next month. As you get their consent, draw a thick black line through each item.

8. Explain that you, as team leader, will take the time to listen and find out the reasons for those grievances over the next month.

9. Finally, ask everyone sign a ‘master list’ indicating their agreement to amnesty.

To go up – follow through

The purpose of the amnesty is not to resolve the conflict. But it has given you (as team leader) two valuable things (and probably a third, too!):

It has given you likely ‘root causes’ of the conflict and/or low morale

It has bought you valuable time to try to resolve the root causes of that conflict.

You then need to spend the next month following through on the issues that have been surfaced.

But what about the third factor mentioned above?

The magic of a sincere amnesty

The third factor is that, in many cases, the conflicts will start to resolve themselves.

By leading the way in surfacing the conflicts, and then by clarifying and grouping those conflicts, you have just by doing so empowered the team members to work through them – through your show of leadership, and through facilitating clarity about those conflicts.

The amnesty itself is not about forgetting, but about creating the breathing space for those conflicts to be worked through.

What you can do now

If you would like to build a high-performing team in your company, ask us about Five Star Teams. Look up – and never look back!


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