“Are your team members partners or opponents?”

Great leaders find a way for everyone to win as long as everyone stays in the game with the passion to create a win for the team. Poor leaders settle for a compromise or they will take their “marbles” and go home. In a compromise there are no winners, everyone loses something.

Compromise is a tool for managers, politicians and weak leaders. When you use the win-win approach to conflict, you change the culture of adversity and defensiveness to one of a cooperative spirit and team effort.

One person consistently applying a joint problem-solving approach can make a significant difference to any conflict. If you are a core leader you must be that person. You must convince yourself that redirecting the course and tone of the conflict is worth the effort. If not, don’t expect it from the team.

Until you pay attention you are usually unaware of the way you argue your own ideas. You often find yourself with a knee-jerk reaction in difficult situations based on your long established habits combined with the mood of the moment.

When challenged, only the mature refrain from separating and disconnecting from those causing them pain and difficulty. Too many times it becomes a “you against me” and a sense that I must win at any cost. At that moment you have stopped listening with heart and now you are only listening with your head.

Often it’s no longer what’s best for the team, but my way is the only solution. The most important decision at this point is changing the conversation from looking at solutions back to what are the underlying emotional needs of all the team members, especially those who are struggling.

Addressing each person’s needs rather than a single option, means building a solution that acknowledges and values those needs, not denying others’ and justifying your own.

Great leaders ask questions like: “Why does that seem like the best solution to you?” “What’s your real need here?” “What are the team’s best interests in this situation?” “What values are important to you here?” “What’s the outcome that you want to see?”

The answers to these questions significantly alter the conversation and determine at the end of the day if you have a partner or an opponent!