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The First 48 Principle of Conlifct Resolution
December 2010

Conflict among managers, like Christmas music in December, is everywhere. And conflict resolution is an essential skill for any leader who wants to be effective. A key component of conflict resolution is the First 48 Principle.

I coined this from the A&E show, The First 48. It’s a documentary about homicide investigations, and at the beginning,
the announcer says, “If you don’t get a big lead in the first 48 hours, your chances of solving the murder are cut in half.”

I apply this principle to conflict resolution by saying, “If you don’t make a positive, direct effort to address the conflict
within the first 48 hours, your chances of successfully resolving that conflict are cut in half.” It’s the First 48 Principle of Conflict Resolution.

“Make a positive, direct effort to address the conflict,” means, go to the person and let him or her know how you feel.
That’s the starting point, because if you don’t express this, the other person won’t know what’s wrong. Without that, you won’t resolve it.

Note also that this principle says, “successfully resolving that conflict.” Not just any old resolution. This means resolving
the conflict constructively, in a way that’s best for the team, department, or company.

You don’t yell or scream. Instead, you express the emotion by saying “it made me mad,” or “I was disappointed.” Then be specific about what happened.

But, effective leaders act within the First 48 Hours. The longer we wait beyond that First 48, the more likely the
conflict’s resolution will involve lots of bitterness and acrimony. That doesn’t make for a successful resolution.

Of course, we can come up with lots of reasons for not dealing with it within the First 48. We could do nothing, and hope that maybe the other person leaves, and maybe that will happen. But probably not.

We could also let it drag on and on, and hope that we’ll resolve it eventually. We can also hope that the other person will change on his or her own. But we know that doesn’t happen either.

Or, we say we’ll let it simmer for a week or two. But the farther we get from when it actually happened, the less likely
we are to bring it up at all: Next thing we know, SIX MONTHS have gone by, and we feel silly bringing up things from the distant past. So we do nothing.

When all else fails, we use that old stand-by, “The timing isn’t right.” And then we find that the timing is NEVER right.
C’mon, when will the timing be right? How about Wednesday February 9, at 3:00?

The wiser leadership approach is to act within the First 48 Hours.

What do you think of First 48 Principle of Conflict Resolution? E-mail me your thoughts.

And try using the First 48 during the Christmas Holidays, when family gatherings can also generate plenty of conflict!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and...until next edition, keep leading the way!

Copyright (C) 2010 by Terry Wall


alumni@drexel.edu