One of the greatest challenges many leaders face is effective communication between the leader and those whom he leads. We live in a technological world of constant communication with cell phones, texts, twitter and facebook. We can know what you ate for dinner, but do we know what truly motivates your soul? We understand that you have changed a part of our organization, but do you understand how this change affects my family?
It is difficult to translate a new concept across multiple layers of organization, different ages, life experiences, etcâ€¦ that includes passion, explanation, vision, and reasons for this â€œnew direction.â€ Everyone has the ability to take something that is said and add his or her own â€œunderstandingâ€ to the communicated items.
So not only does the leader have to communicate an idea, but he must also try and predict how others may respond and adjust the communication accordingly. So as we enter into a discussion regarding communication letâ€™s start with a definition: â€œCommunication is the process we go through to convey understanding from one person or group to another (Genesis 11, Matthew 13:51, Mark 8:13-21.)â€
Generally there is a process that one goes through to pass on this understanding:
1. Develop a clear concept of the idea or feeling to be communicated.
2. Choose the right words and actions to convey the idea or feeling.
3. Become aware of the surrounding communication barriers and work at minimizing them.
4. Absorb the transmitted information by listening to the words and observing the actions.
5. Translate the words and actions.
6. Develop correct ideas and/or feelings.
But in any organization there is always the potential or eventual conflict that results from either poorly communicated ideas, or persons who add in too much of their own information to the communication and the end result is conflict.
“Open and hostile opposition occurring as a result of differing viewpoints.” It is possible to have a â€œdisagreementâ€ without hostility. But this definition involves hostility. Our focus today will focus on how to deal with conflicts directly resulting from conflicting communication.
â€¢ Conflict comes from our own selfish desires and passions (James 4:1)
â€¢ Conflict causes us to fabricate and magnify faults and weaknesses in others (Ad Hominem).
â€¢ Conflict creates division within the organization (will you participate?)
â€¢ Conflict causes us to expend our energies on non-productive activities (Romans 12:18).
â€¢ Disagreement can lead to individual and organizational growth (Proverbs 27:17).
â€¢ Disagreement can reveal the need for change (Proverbs 18:15).
â€¢ Disagreement can help make us more tolerant of opposing views (Proverbs 23:12).
So the business meeting didnâ€™t go the way you thought, you have received an e-mail from an angry person in your organization, or certain people wonâ€™t return your phones calls â€“ there it is conflict staring you right in the face. So how do we deal with it?
Methods of Dealing with Conflict
1. Avoid it, retreating from it. You can always just run away.
2. Attempting to avoid it by circumventing major issues and focusing on minor issues. You find yourself saying things like, â€œwe are meeting tonight to discuss the brand name of the toilet paper in the stalls.â€
3. Dealing without side issues.
4. Identifying the real issues of the conflict and working your way through them to a satisfactory resolution.
Yes, you guess it â€“ this is the right answer (not the easy answer). It takes experience, spiritual discernment, and understanding of sinful human nature to sometimes identify the â€œrealâ€ issues of the conflict. Believe it or not, people will not always tell you why they are angry (they may not even know why), wonâ€™t come to meetings, arenâ€™t returning e-mails, etcâ€¦ So the challenge is get past the false issues and move into the true root of the conflict.
Scriptural Approach to Confrontation
1. Make Sure that you are dealing with facts, not guesses or hearsay (Deuteronomy 19:15).
2. Always make the initial confrontation in private between you and the person involved (Proverbs 25:9-10; Matthew 18:15).
3. When you try to resolve the conflict privately if the other person involved refuses to resolve the problem, take someone with you and try again (Matthew 18:16). The goal is restoration.
4. If the person continues to resist resolving the conflict, you may need to dissolve the relationship (Matthew 18:17). But this is another chance for the person to repent.
â€¢ The biblical picture of â€œrestorationâ€ is one of setting a broken bone. It is painful but the ultimate goal is healing and putting things back as they should be. Also, be aware that you may not always be the one setting the bone â€“ it might be you who are in need of having their legs broken and reset. Ouch.
â€¢ In leadership, people are always important. Therefore, seeking to restore relationships should always be a top priority. Sometimes it ends well, sometimes it doesnâ€™t â€“ but you must do all that is within your ability to restore the relationship.
Note: the basic premise of this article was borrowed from class notes of Dr. Ken Coley at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in a class entitled Church Management and Administration in 1998.