When conflict arises in a senior team, and remains unresolved, it can negatively impact on the performance of the whole Organisation, holding back decision making, innovation & productivity. Furthermore, it can result in a huge amount of stress and anxiety for those directly involved, the workforce, and the families at home.
This was the situation we found in a Public Sector Organisation where the Board was split between the Non Execs, who were all new to their roles, and the Executive Team who between them, had many years experience with the organisation.
The Performance indicators were not looking good, and financially the organisation hit 'troubled waters'. The pressure was on to perform and Board meetings became tense and unproductive. The Non Execs demanded to know 'who was to blame' whilst the Executive team 'clammed up' feeling misunderstood, unappreciated and fearful of the future.
Having agreed a brief with the HR Director we carried out a series of confidential one-to-one discussions with each Board Member. The purpose of these conversations was to identify common themes, explore different perspectives and feelings about the conflict, and to establish what each person wanted moving forward. In this case we also held one-to-one discussions with a cross section of stakeholders in the organisation to build the wider picture of the impact of the conflict.
With the guarantee of anonimity and in-depth, objective exploration from ourselves, people were very open and shared their frustrations and regrets about the situation that had arisen. It was clear that everyone wanted to move forward positively but adversarial interactions had become so habitual and entrenched that it was difficult to see a way out of the situation.
The first step was to write a summary of our findings and present this back to The Board. Whilst this required great sensitivity, 'holding up the mirror' in this way had a powerful effect and gave the positive momentum to the group to want to take the next step.
This next step was a two day 'retreat' for The Board in which the issues and behaviours were explored and an agreememt about future working established. The two days were challenging for all involved, requiring them to both acknowledge their own contribution to the conflict as well as give open and constructive feedback to others, but the impact was worth it. A much greater understanding of each other AND the organisation and its enormous challenges emerged which built a strong foundation for the future.
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