Embracing Conflict

In a world filled with overzealous political correctness and well-intentioned desires to protect self-esteem, society it seems has largely lost its desire and perhaps even its ability to handle conflict. We want to manage it, and even then, with kid gloves. It’s deemed better now to brush things under the rug than face them head-on, and this creates huge organizational issues (and personal ones). Patrick Lencioni, author of “Death By Meeting”, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, and founder of organizational business gurus, The Table Group has this to say about conflict:

When I talk about conflict on a team, I’m talking about productive, ideological conflict: passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance to the team. Any team that wants to maximize its effectiveness needs to learn to do this, and doing so can only happen if vulnerability-based trust exists.

That’s not to say that some teams that lack trust don’t argue. It’s just that their arguments are often destructive because they are laced with politics, pride, and competition, rather than humble pursuit of truth.

When people who don’t trust one another engage in passionate debate, they are trying to win the argument. They aren’t usually listening to the other person’s ideas and then reconsidering their point of view; they’re figuring out how to manipulate the conversation to get what they want. Or worse yet, they’re not even arguing with the other person face-to-face but venting about them in the hallways after a meeting is over.

In contrast, when vulnerability-based trust exists, team members say everything that needs to be said, and there is nothing left to talk about behind closed doors.

Yes, it’s a little bit uncomfortable- especially for those of us who value peace and harmony in the workplace and in our families. But if team members are never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, then it is extremely likely that they’re not making the best decisions for the organization. A great team, and a great leader, will embrace conflict as a means of getting to the heart of an issue. As well as ensuring all voices are heard and the best ideas are constructed together. Few good things come from working in a vacuum.

If your team or organization is in need of a checkup in this or any other way, contact me. I’d love to spend a few days working through helping you make your group the best it can possibly be.

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