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Three Steps to Effective Conflict Resolution for Business and Home Success

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tug of war
By Stephen Rapposelli, PT

If you are a physical therapist, you may very well possess certain traits woven into your very soul that make you lousy at conflict resolution. I would be willing to bet that you hate conflict, you want everyone to get along, you make everyone feel better in most instances, and you love it when everyone gets along. Are you raising your hand right now?

Well, what a shock it is when you manage people and there is conflict. Ugh! Bad feelings bubble up, and those feelings are very uncomfortable. Perhaps you ignore it, justify it, distract yourself from it, or give it to someone else. All of these are strategies I have used in the past on my journey as a CEO, and I can promise you that it won’t get better until YOU change. But how?

First, admit there is a problem! Here is my first three-part tip on improving your skills in conflict management:

  1. Face reality
  2. Make a plan
  3. Move (We won’t be discussing this part, but as we all know, planning without executing is called “dreaming.”)

Now, I will admit, most of my good ideas are stolen from someone else, as is this simple checklist. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read it, so I can’t give credit, but it is a doozy. It is so valuable and simple, I have it permanently displayed on the whiteboard in my administrative office.

Using this framework, step one is to admit the reality that you are facing: namely, that you are not good at conflict resolution. (As you gain wisdom, you realize how many things you aren’t good at, and that is okay for now). Have you faced reality yet?

Next, make a plan. In 30 years of business, I have had four business coaches. Each one filled the need I had at the time. Should you decide to work with a business coach, it’s important that you hire them to help you address a specific need. I hired my first coach in 2017, after 25 years in business, so it is never too late! I needed a coach to help me become a better CEO and to help my leadership team become better leaders, and what we gained from the experience was worth every penny spent. What he taught me about conflict resolution, which I am sharing with you now, is so good that once you read it and apply it to any situation, you will discover where you are going wrong and what your plan needs to be to resolve it. I now use this three-step checklist daily, and it will probably be put up on my whiteboard in the administrative office soon! Here it is, courtesy of my business coach, Kevin Hudson, founder and president of Keylan Management Group:

  1. Clarity: Is my team crystal clear on my expectations of them? This step is often where we as CEOs fail: namely, we are not crystal clear on our expectations. If you are not crystal clear in your own mind, how can your team be expected to be crystal clear on what it is that you want? Documenting expectations is a good way to get clarity. This is your responsibility, not theirs.
  2. Coaching: How am I intentional in providing coaching where my team members are not highly effective? It’s important to emphasize the words “intentional” and “highly effective” here. Are you being intentional in your coaching of of your team by dedicating your time, resources, and attention to coaching them? As a CEO, it is extremely easy to be distracted by many things. Unfortunately, this actually makes you less effective, and it sends the message to those you interact with that you don’t value what is in front of you right now. Showing intention in your coaching is critical. Meanwhile, “highly effective” implies that you have a quantifiable, agreed-upon way to measure effectiveness. Do you have such a system in place? If not, you need to develop one.
  3. Accountability: Do I have a recurring meeting to inspect what I expect? Holding someone accountable, every time, is hard! You can’t abdicate this part; you need to put in the effort to go back and make sure people are accountable. If you would like to further explore this area, there are some excellent books available that go into more detail. Both Difficult Conversations and Necessary Endings do an excellent job of helping you sort out your issues with conflict resolution.

Now that you have a pair of great, concise checklists to help you navigate conflict, you are ready to lead your team to even greater heights. And whenever you’re ready, you can add these lists to your own whiteboard. 


Stephen Rapposelli, PT

Stephen Rapposelli, PT, is a PPS member and owner of Performance Physical Therapy, as well as Stretchplex, located in Delaware. He can be reached at srapposelli@pptandfitness.com.

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