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Getting creative with conflict

Managing conflict is a key to success for finance directors and others, argues Patrick Dunne. Here, he offers advice for turning disputes into productive discussions.

In building Leap Confronting Conflict – a national youth charity that trains young people in managing conflict – our working assumption has been that ‘conflict is inevitable – it’s how you deal with it that matters’. In my experience the same is pretty much true in every walk of life and for whatever stage you may be at in your career.

Many of the core elements of finance’s role are rich in potential conflict. Just think of budgeting, financial control, forecasting, cash management, analysis and reporting or managing relations with the bank or suppliers. The ability to manage conflict well is likely to increase effectiveness.

Moreover, it is also likely to enhance prospects for getting the top finance job. It may be natural to focus on managing conflict with others. However, when dealing with tough choices, sometimes the trickiest conflict to manage is the one within yourself. For example, the age-old dilemma for those in the finance function: “Should I challenge this or keep quiet?” For obvious reasons conflict gets a bad press. But it is also true that, managed well, conflict can be a good thing. It can produce the creative spark for innovation or provide the opportunity to reset a relationship, making it more robust, healthy and productive in the process. When it comes to decision-making the absence of conflict might also lead to groupthink or complacency, undermining judgement.

This is an extract from the Finance & Management Magazine, Issue 245, July/August 2016.

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