CHOW #19– Managing Emotions

Lakshman is a sensitive PM. He tries to avoid any confrontation and does not want his team members getting into a confrontation and heated debates as well. He has a 12 member team working on a major ERP implementation for a Japanese manufacturing company. There is a constant tussle between the Functional Lead (FL) and the Technical Lead (TL) which Lakshman finds it extremely difficult to deal with. Functional Lead, Ravi, is a very out spoken, impatient, ambitious person who over-commits to customers at times without thinking about the feasibility of the solutions. On the other hand, the Technical Lead, Shashi, is a conservative, soft spoken, creative techie who is slow to respond but is a perfectionist. Ravi & Shashi get into conflicts often because of their personalities and differing perspectives and emotions flare up. Lakshman gets worried about these negative emotions and tries to diffuse the situations by avoiding discussions between them. Because of this, many issues are unresolved and have piled up impacting the project and the Customer.

What would be your advice to Lakshman?

Suggested solution:

First of all, trying to avoid the conflict is not a good strategy. Often conflicts will not get resolved by themselves; Instead they will grow bigger. It’s wise to address conflicts when they are small. Else, broken relationships are much harder to fix later. So, Lakshman should proactively try to resolve the conflicts between Ravi & Shashi.

First and foremost, Lakshman should become aware of his own emotions and his resistance/discomfort to deal with such situations. He should recognize that he is playing the role a of a manager and that it’s his responsibility to deal with such situations to help the team and the project.

Once he is convinced that he needs to act, there are many possible steps. He can talk to Ravi and Shashi to understand their perspectives and coach them separately. Then he can talk to them together on any specific conflict situation and try to make them see each other’s perspectives by facilitating open discussions and asking questions; he can help them to see the common objective/goal of the project.  He can coach them to realize the importance of working with diverse set of people with differing ideas/thoughts for more innovation. He can send them to some courses on Emotional Intelligence which helps them to develop more empathetic and self-aware working styles.   He can bring awareness to Ravi & Shashi that by collaborating together they both win, instead of trying to put down each other.

Often, coming together in informal non-work contexts is a better way to build relationship among people; stronger relationships build resilient teams which sustain even in difficult work situations. Lakshman can create such environments/situations where Ravi & Shashi will come together informally often – like for example in coffee/tea/lunch times, team outings, some games or trekking etc.

In order to reduce conflicts between team members, it’s better to keep bringing them together more often than trying to keep them separated.

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