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A Step By Step Guide To Handling Conflict On Teams

posted by Coach Dawn Writes
Monday, February 27, 2012 at 11:41pm EST

My blog is a place for coaches at all levels who are interested in building teams, motivating their student athletes, and coaching ideas that work. You won't find drills or job postings there, but you will find thoughts from a self-proclaimed coaching nerd who wants to help coaches and teams thrive.

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Conflict is a natural outcome of groups and teams, therefore, we’ve got to know how to manage it.  It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward, but teaching our players how to manage conflict will give them a leg up in both their professional and personal lives.  So when I saw Are You In A Personality Conflict? over at the American Management Association’s site, I thought I’d bring it on over.

6 things that are vital for our teams to understand about conflict

  1. Be self-introspective.  It’s too easy to say that someone else is always the problem.  Challenge your players to think about their tone when talking with the person they’re in conflict with…is it always positive?  Ask them if they’ve been starting “mess” by talking with other team members about the problem.  Acknowledging their own part in the conflict doesn’t release the other person from theirs.
  2. Accentuate the positive.  If their teammate is open to talking about their conflict, we have to make them understand that this is a positive thing!  Even if the only thing the two fighting players can agree on is that they should talk…at least they agree on something.
  3. Talk to the individual.  We’ve got to encourage our players to stay away from messy people.  Messy people, in this instance, are people who thrive on conflict.  They stir the pot.  They’re the ones whispering about what they “heard” to other folks on the team.  Instead of starting mess by involving the entire team in the conflict, encourage your players to speak directly to the source.
  4. Keep communication channels open.  At the base of John Wooden’s Pyramid of success are the blocks, “loyalty”, “friendship”, and “cooperation”.  Without those three things, I don’t believe our teams can be successful.  And those three things can only happen when communication is flowing.  Every team I’ve coached that has underachieved failed on those three blocks.
  5. Treat everyone alike.  This one is a tough one for players.  First, they’re drawn to certain personalities on the team.  Second, they’re more likely to align themselves with those in their class or who are their age.  I think the biggest lesson we can teach our players is that they are more likely to be friends with certain players, so they can’t be surprised when conflict occurs with those outside of their natural group.
  6. Agree to disagree.  Finally, if they talked, you’ve talked, everyone has talked and there is still a conflict…they have to agree that neither is wrong, they just see things differently.  They’ve got to find a place where they can be loyal to the team, have a friendly relationship with each team member, and cooperate with the team’s goals.  That can’t happen when everyone is just trying to prove they’re right.


It’s pretty much a given that players on your team will experience conflict at some point.  Hopefully, going through these steps will keep the conflict small and easy to handle.

Like this post?  Check out Using Personality Tests To Increase Your Team Chemistry and 5 Ways To Make Conflict Work For You And Your Team.

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