There’s no doubt about it, this world is filled with conflict. Whether on the international scene, domestically, provincially, regionally, corporately and individually it appears that we just can’t seem to agree and get along. However, if there is one lesson I have learned in my life it is this:To have a successful journey through life demands one has the ability to manage conflict productively. That doesn’t mean avoiding it, depressing it or aggressively fighting it. It does mean turning conflict into positive outcomes.
As defined in Wikipedia, conflict management involves implementing strategies to limit the negative aspects of conflict and to increase the positive aspects of conflict at a level equal to or higher than where the conflict is taking place. Furthermore, the aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes (effectiveness or performance in organizational setting) (Rahim, 2002, p. 208). It is not concerned with eliminating all conflict or avoiding conflict. Conflict can be valuable to groups and organizations. It has been shown to increase group outcomes when managed properly (e.g., Alper, Tjosvold, & Law, 2000; Bodtker & Jameson, 2001; Rahim & Bonoma, 1979; Kuhn & Poole, 2000).
Maccoby and Scudder identify five steps to managing conflict:
1. Anticipate – Take time to obtain information that can lead to conflict.
2. Prevent – Develop strategies before the conflict occurs.
3. Identify – If it is interpersonal or procedural, move to quickly manage it.
4. Manage – Remember that conflict is emotional.
5. Resolve – React, without blame, and you will learn through dialogue.
These steps appear basic yet as individuals, corporations and countries we struggle to follow them. Why is that? Why do we allow conflict to rob us of realizing our true potential?
In a few weeks I will celebrate my fifth anniversary at CMA Ontario. Five years ago the management team established Vision 2012. As we approach the end of this journey, on June 30, 2012, I reflect on CMA Ontario’s Vision “to be the designation of choice for professional accountants in business.” We are on track to realize this vision, and in October 2012 we expect to graduate 1,225 CMAs and counting -- more accountants than any other accounting body in any jurisdiction in Canada. If I were to consider the one element that allowed CMA Ontario to realize its vision in Ontario, it is because of the ability of the management team to harness conflict and turn it into productive and positive energy and then channel that energy towards the successful execution of our goals and strategies. I know this may seem a tad boastful, but I am very proud of what CMA Ontario has accomplished, and accordingly must thank the Board, Management, Employees and all our Stakeholders and Members for their contribution, support and commitment to Vision 2012. So, thank you in helping us realize Vision 2012. I look forward to sharing the goals of Vision 2015 at our Annual Meeting this fall.