top of page

Q&A with Ilana Sprongl

Updated: May 31

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Ilana Sprongl, Managing Director, Delivery

How do you approach situations where individuals involved in a conflict are resistant to considering other perspectives? What strategies have you found most effective in these cases? 

When faced with conflicts, it's crucial to approach them with an open mind and a willingness to understand. I find that a combination of patience, active listening, and a genuine curiosity about the origins of their resistance, without any preconceived judgments, is the most effective strategy. Creating a space where every voice feels heard and valued is essential. This often involves investing time to uncover the layers of experiences and beliefs that shape their viewpoints without the immediate goal of changing minds. This approach allows us to find a common ground from which understanding and resolution can begin.

You've discussed the importance of empathy in conflict resolution. In your experience, what are some practical exercises or approaches individuals can use to foster empathy towards others, especially in high-stress environments? 

One effective exercise I use is to 'put myself in their shoes.' This practice of understanding another’s perspective helps me grasp their reasoning and build empathy. Another technique is to ground myself and become more present in the discussion. This means actively listening, truly hearing and understanding what a person is saying, rather than just thinking of my response.  Both understanding perspectives and being present require a person to be mindful of their own behaviours. It's a skill that needs practice.

Conflict often escalates due to misunderstandings or lack of communication. What are some key communication skills you believe are essential for effective conflict management, and how can these be developed? 

There is no easy answer for communicating effectively; if there were, there wouldn’t be so many books about it! Three skills that I believe are essential are active listening, empathetic expression, and respectful dialogue. Active listening allows us to tune into the underlying messages in what others express. Empathetic expression, where we communicate our understanding of and concern for the other's feelings, fosters a deep sense of being heard and understood. Respectful dialogue, where we express our own needs and perspectives without undermining those of others, is crucial. These skills can be improved through practice, reflective observation of our interactions, and, importantly, a commitment to continuous learning and growth in our communication abilities.

In your view, how significant is the role of organizational culture in conflict management? Could you provide an example of how a positive culture can mitigate conflicts before they escalate? 

I don’t believe it is possible to overstate the significance of organizational culture when it comes to conflict management. It shapes the very context in which conflicts arise and are resolved. A culture that champions openness, empathy, and mutual respect is a solid ground for constructive conflict resolution. It encourages individuals to bring their whole selves to the table, fostering an environment where diverse perspectives are not just tolerated but celebrated. For instance, organizations that prioritize regular training on empathy and communication skills create a common language for conflict resolution, making it easier to navigate disputes before they escalate. Such a proactive approach not only mitigates conflicts but also enriches the organizational tapestry with a deeper sense of unity and shared purpose.[1]

A 2013 study[2] found that an organization's culture influences the design and implementation of its organizational structure. Organizational culture creates attitudes, assumptions, norms, values, and frames of reference that are used by the individuals who created the organizational structure.

According to a 2020[3] study on organizational culture and conflict management styles (collaborating, avoiding, compromising, and accommodating), they are tightly linked, and organizations that have a strong positive culture and a high degree of psychological safety are much more successful in managing conflict effectively.

Conflict is not always unhealthy.  In fact, conflicting ideas can spawn creativity. Healthy environments treat conflict as a way to learn and evolve, not as a roadblock.

You've highlighted the significance of perspective-taking. How can leaders and managers be trained to incorporate this into their conflict resolution toolkit, especially in diverse and multicultural teams? 

The most effective way to train perspective-taking is through scenario-based training. The scenarios need to focus on areas related to what those leaders do and how they work—without that context, the words will be meaningless. Several are also available on Online Learning platforms, but I haven’t taken them, so I can’t comment on their effectiveness.


Can you discuss a time when you had to manage a particularly challenging conflict, and what were the key lessons learned from that experience? 

In this instance, deep-seated misunderstandings and differing visions led to a stalemate between a technology team that supported a SaaS software tool and the business team that used that same software. By facilitating a series of dialogues centered on active listening and empathy, where each side could articulate their fears and aspirations without judgment, we began to unravel the conflict. The turning point came when team members expressed not just their own perspectives but took the step of articulating the viewpoints of their counterparts. At that point, they were able to find a way to work together effectively to support and use the SaaS tool.  The key lessons were understanding the value of active listening and empathy. Both teams wanted to do the right thing, but they hadn’t communicated well enough to understand what the right thing was.

[2] Janićijević, N. (2013). The mutual impact of organizational culture and structure. Economic annals 58(198): 35-60.

[3] Akif, H. (2021). The relationship between organizational culture and conflict management styles: The mediating role of psychological safety. International Journal of Tourism & Hotel Business Management, 3(2), 475-484.

69 views0 comments
Subscribe for us to keep you updated with our latest articles

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter !

© 2021 Trusted Magazine (by Trusted Advisors Group)

Subscribe to our newsletter

bottom of page