working in the cracks

Conflict is inevitable – but it is not inevitably negative.

I have worked with organisations, teams and groups for the last 20 years, bringing them out of a state of anxious avoidance and into a place where ideas can be shared freely, sifted through and formed together into action plans.

Learning over the years to create an environment that unlocks communication between colleagues has been continuously fascinating, whether in a small team where two people failed  to speak to each other for several years; for line managers who were unaware of the impact they were having on their team’s ability to bond; or with a group of highly committed and energised young activists who always fell out over the issue of money.

“I just wanted to thank you for your amazing facilitation. You really seemed to guide the sessions to ensure that we were tackling some of the issues that have been at the fore of the conflict. It has been incredibly productive and liberating – we have a great foundation to move forward.”

Board member, national NGO, 2016

Seeing conflict as a problem, likely to end in argument and bad feeling, shrinks our ability to tolerate different perspectives and limits our horizons for creative policy and decision making. By redefining conflict as normal, inevitable and as something to be engaged with rather than moved away from, new possibilities open up for us at work as well as in our personal lives.

There are piles of research papers out there demonstrating how the more diverse a team (however you define that), the stronger and more creative it can be. However, with that diversity of experience, knowledge, ideas, background comes more scope for disagreement and conflict. For me, this is where developing the confidence and skills to air differences in a constructive way becomes crucial – and very liberating. Because once people feel free to disagree, they can build on each others’ skill sets and insights.

‘Thank you – the session was extremely well received. It broke down some of the professional barriers between us and has started a process where we can be more honest with each other.’

Senior civil servant, 2015