The conflict you can predict

The good news about conflict on your team is you can expect it to be there.

Don’t let it surprise you.

The goal is not to remove conflict, partly because you can’t. The goal is to understand how to navigate it

And you can do it. I know it.

To help, last week I recorded a podcast with Damian Lillard’s trainer, Phil Beckner, on this topic.

It’s one of my favorite episodes, so don’t miss it. 

In the episode we discuss a few of the most common conflict traps even the most experienced leaders can fall into. 

I’ll highlight a few of them here to ensure you understand how to not only manage through conflict, but use it as a tool to bring your team closer together. 

Questions you might be asking.

And why is this important? 

What happens when you don’t handle conflict well?

Look at this:

This is not what you want if you are looking at the world through the Leader’s Lens.

So what are these common causes of conflict??

Unmet Expectations

Imagine this. You show up to pick up your beautiful date, let’s just say her name is Emily. And she is absolutely gorgeous.

You have flowers. Your car is detailed. You put on your best cologne. 

And you knock on the door. But nobody is there. 

You check your messages to see if you missed anything, and there it is. 

The text you missed. 

“I’ll meet you there.”

This is a common tale of missed communication.

She was expecting you to be at the restaurant at 7, but you expected to be picking her up at 7. 

So now there is conflict. 

Let’s now move away from the beautiful girlfriend analogy and move back to focusing on you as a leader.

As a leader you have to be sure communications are missed, and that your vision is articulated clearly. 

Small changes that aren’t communicated can go a long way in breaking trust. As a leader your team needs to know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you. When standards shift like shadows in the night, people get the creeps and will jump ship. 

Clear and consistent communication will conquer conflict before it occurs. 

Shine a light on the stage so the setting is clear. Be sure standards are defined and achievable. Be the leader who doesn’t just set the scene but participates, providing consistent feedback and open dialogue. 

Everyone needs to know their role and feel confident they are delivering on expectations. 

By creating clear expectations, you’re not just preventing conflict; you’re creating unity and allowing trust and collaboration to develop on your team. 

Lack of Accountability

When you avoid hard conversations, you create conflict on your team.

🕶A good job can’t feel the same as a bad job.

You can’t allow people to decide when to show up and when not to, because some people won’t show up and this means more work for those who are there every day and engaged in their role.

To clarify, everyone needs time off. I mean to “show up” as in people need to be committed to the expectations of the role when they are there.

When team members drift away from their roles, dominos fall. Creating conflict.

Imagine you are a gardener. Your job is to take care of the soil. You can’t let the weeds take over the garden. You have to do the work required to keep your soil healthy. Cultivate a culture where your flowers are able to get the sunshine they need to thrive.

By keeping accountability on your team, you’re not just preventing conflict; you’re harvesting trust, respect, and a team that grows together. 

You can do it. I know you can.


The truth is winning cures a lot of problems.

For better or worse.

Your team wants to know they have a chance to be successful. If they don’t believe this, they’ll act like it. Why try if failure is the only realistic expectation?

Give your team the tools and support required to do their job well. If not, conflict will take their place.

First create the clarity and structure needed for performance. This starts with clear, measurable goals. 

Next be sure your team has the tools and development needed to be great. 

Then celebrate the small victories. This will help boost morale and create momentum for future success. 

A team focused on winning will be more likely to stay focused on the mission and not let conflict take them off track. 

Focusing on success > Letting petty conflict take over your soul


There are a lot of healthy conflicts that are needed for a team to innovate and grow.

But sometimes conflict is a result of missteps that are easy to fix when you know what to look for.

Being a pro means being proactive. (Would love for you to give me a 1-10 rating on this attempt at wordplay.) Anyway, see you next week and let yourself be great!

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit

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