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We usually find it easier to react to problems, instead of anticipating them.

Imagine that a disagreement flares up between two of your staff members. You call in a mediator, who sits down with both parties, identifies their needs and their grievances, and guides them towards a resolution of their dispute.

With a talented mediator, aided by some residual goodwill between the combatants, you might achieve a positive result. But what if you could see into the future, and address the problem before it flared?

That may sound absurd. What do you mean? You expect me to be some kind of psychic?

Not quite. We don’t need extra-sensory perception to anticipate the future. We just need to look, and listen. You notice that an uncomfortable silence has fallen over the team. People are working longer hours, but achieving less. There’s a palpable sense of tension in the air.

The proactive manager seeks help before the volcano blows. Before people say things in the heat of the moment that can never be retracted. Before friendships are lost that might only be partially mended.

Sure, it will take time, and cost money. You may need to listen to some unpalatable truths. But if you seek help as soon as you notice the tension, if you engage a mediator to work with your team, identify their concerns, and teach them how to manage their emotions and interpersonal communication more effectively, then there’s every change that you’ll avert that otherwise inevitable blow-up.

And the cost? The proactive manager knows that the cost of hosting successful team dialogue is always lower than the cost of managing out-and-out warfare. And that the cost of such conflict can never be measured solely in dollars.