How Great Leaders Handle Conflict and Accountability (Lean Leadership Series)


LeanCor Leadership Principle: 

Effective Teamwork – Enable teamwork through coaching, clear assignments and goals, and high support for removing roadblocks or conflicts. Hold team members accountable for process improvement and business results.

Leading a team is a rewarding role, but "with great power comes great responsibility" -- as Voltaire said. And that responsibility can be challenging, specifically when it comes to conflict and holding people accountable. These areas require giving time and effort to communicate effectively, and at times having difficult conversations.

Here are some ways that great leaders productively handle these two areas and succeed with their teams:

1. Listening and Conflict

Listening and conflict are a natural part of team dynamics. We want to learn, grow and improve.  Moreover, it can be hard contribute to teams that aren’t always working hand-in-hand, in close proximity.  Geographical distance and other silo barriers can lead to strain in the relationships and make teamwork hard.  

Great leaders:

  • Enter conversations with an understanding that communication must go two ways to be productive. This involves accepting a level of humility and being willing to listen first and respond second (without interrupting). They know they're not really listening if while the other person is talking, they are thinking about their comeback. 
  • They honestly seek understanding. Lean embraces the philosophy of gaining true understanding so that all parties are on the same page at the end of discussion.  If a team has several members playing the classic telephone game, the outputs will suffer.
  • They translate listening and conflict into progress. They turn that frown upside down at the sight of a nice, clean action item list.  Being challenged is not a bad thing, and it can lead to discovery and improvement.  They look for the tangible actions that can come from conflict and seek to work towards completing those actions.
  • They keep in mind the perspective of the party with whom they're working. They seek common ground where possible.  Approaching relationships with an “I am right” level of rigidity can lead to personal stagnation and an inability to connect. 
2. Team Accountability

As leaders, we must hold team members accountable for process improvement and business results. Teams are formed for a reason. They are formed to achieve something. Whether it’s fighting villains, curing sickness, running marathons, advancing the world’s supply chains, or just solving a problem, every team should have a clear and visible goal. 

Great leaders:

  • Make that goal clear and visible and to set expectations for tollgates and due dates. They're careful not to get too "in the weeds" with how the goal will be met. This is up to the team, and a great opportunity for new leaders to emerge.
  • They know reflection is crucial. They're involved and schedule regular check-ins with the team to see how they are doing and how they can support or remove any roadblocks. They give constructive feedback and coach. They want the team to have a certain amount of flexibility and independence, but also want to balance in time to support and make sure the team is successful.

A leader is one who truly cares about the development of others, and there’s nothing more empowering then being part of a great team.

What You Can Do Today: 

  1. 5 Minute Action: With every conversation today, try your best to just listen
  2. Congratulate your team for a job well done and reflect on how we can be even better going forward.
  3. Reflect on your personality type (use Myers Briggs or Strength Finders) and think about how you can manage your strengths and weaknesses in different situations or around different types of people in your team.


Looking for a Lean Leadership certificate course? Register for the next session of our Certified Lean Training for Leaders - Collaborative Learning Program.

This interactive and unique e-learning experience combines online modules and weekly coaching sessions with our Lean Deployment Executives. 

Lean Leadership with Coaching

Posted by LeanCor Training and Education

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LeanCor Training and Education delivers proven methodologies for individuals and groups to conveniently advance themselves and their organizations. With public and private offerings for the associate to executive levels, our curriculum and stories are rooted in our team’s collective operational and corporate experience. Training can be delivered in online, virtual, or classroom settings.

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