Resolving conflicts between key people

How do you resolve a conflict between two capable and ambitious people in your team? It may not be as bad as it sounds. When the situation is thoughtfully handled, the end result can be better than if there had been no conflict to start with. Here is how:

  1. Listen attentively to each party separately and ideally also together. If the challenge can be discussed in a group, the solution is closer.
  2. Make it very clear to both that you have full confidence in each of them. They may have weaknesses, but they have been hired for their strengths. Both are vitally needed in the company.
  3. Return the challenge to resolve the differences to the individuals. Emphasize that there is no outcome, in which one comes out as the winner of the conflict and the other as the loser. Both will win together, or both will lose.
  4. Stay engaged, give the process time, and help in reaching a solution.
  5. Over time, the problematic trait of one can often be accepted and tolerated by the other, or they can get help in an area of weakness.
  6. Ultimately the two can start respecting each other, knowing that they have complimenting skills and strengths.

When resolution is reached, the whole management team becomes stronger and operates better.


How do you resolve a conflict between two people who report to you? Sometimes it happens that you, as a CEO or as a leader, you have two people reporting to you who come to you complaining about the other one.

You will need to resolve it one way or the other. Some people think it’s bad news when that happens. It certainly can be bad news.

It can also be the best of all news. Think of it. When people complain about something, it’s typically because they are passionate. You may have at your hand, two very passionate, very dedicated, very strong people who have very clear strengths and who are so good that they also see the weakness of their colleague. They come to you with a complaint.

Here’s how I deal with those situations when they appear. First of all, I listen very attentively to both of them separately, and ideally, also together. If you can discuss it in a group, you are already halfway towards a solution.

I also make it very clear to each one of them that I have full confidence in him or her and also in the other person reporting to me.

I make it completely clear to them that I have hired both of them for their strengths. I intend to keep both of them and there is no situation in which I would dismiss one of them.

Meaning: In a way I return the challenge and the problem to them. I say there is no way to resolve this other than you two agreeing and working together or by both of you leaving.

As the leader, you have to stay engaged. You have to help them. I think it’s important to be the doctor but not the judge, meaning don’t try to be a judge of who is right and who is wrong.

We know that when you hire for strength, that’s what you must do, you will always get people very strong in some area and weak in some other. The criticism is probably warranted.

The way to solution is to accept it and tolerate it with the other and help the colleague in the area where he or she is weak. Appreciate and respect the person for those strengths for which he or she was hired.

With this method, and if you have some time (it will take time), ultimately those two colleagues who were complaining about each other will start respecting each other, knowing that they have complimenting skills and strengths. When that happens, your whole management team will be much stronger, much tighter, and operate much better.

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