5 Rules for Productive Conflict
“All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow.” Patrick Lencioni
Very few of us like to fight. It is uncomfortable, especially in a work setting, to see a fight break out in a meeting. As leaders, we strive to protect those under our charge from harm. Therefore, heated debate is almost taboo. When we discourage heated and passionate discussions, we deprive our team members of learning valuable conflict management skills. We also miss out on the opportunity to get to the real truth in a decision.
In our firm, we have 6 equal partners. We have worked together for many years and have a mutual respect and trust for each other. We also share a unique bond of integrity with one another. For a number of years our meetings were almost conflict free. Every major decision was usually unanimous.
A few years ago we conducted a series of assessments on all the partners – Myers Briggs (MBTI), Strengthsfinder 2.0 and DISC. This gave us great insight into the makeup of each other. But when we discovered the Kolbe A™ Index we entered a new realm of understanding each other. We discovered how each of us uniquely solves problems. This new understanding allowed us to become much more passionate in our meetings. We encourage and expect some conflict because we all want what is best for our firm and we want to tap into the strengths of each of our partners. We now have meetings that are more passionate and emotional. We make decisions that aren’t always unanimous but we unanimously support the vote once it is made.
In The Cause of Your Dysfunctional Team I shared 5 dysfunctions that Patrick Lencioni discussed in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. One of those dysfunctions was a fear of conflict. I have adopted some of Lencioni’s valuable information from his book to provide some guidelines to have productive conflict.
5 Rules for Productive Conflict
1. Know each others conative strengths. It is critical that you understand how your teammates are wired to solve problems. This gives you a necessary insight and respect for how they are approaching a problem. If you would like to take your Kolbe A™ Index click here.
2. Ensure you have developed trust for each other. Knowing each others’ strengths is the first step to developing trust. Each team member must trust that everyone’s intentions are good and feel comfortable challenging a thought or direction.
3. Stick to ideological conflict – not personality focused or mean-spirited attacks. Productive conflict is limited to concepts and ideas – not interpersonal politics.
4. Allow and expect passion, emotion, and frustration. As a leader you may need to encourage passionate debate in the decision process. If this is new to your team, then take time when it first occurs to point it out, praise the person that expressed it and encourage the rest of the team to engage appropriately.
5. Once a decision is made everyone supports it. Great teams understand that everyone on the team must move forward as a unified front to implement decisions that have been made – regardless if one or more team members voted against the decision.
As a leader you want your team to grow and become as effective as possible. Many leaders simply avoid conflict at all costs. Do you have the strength and the courage to push your team to be uncomfortable at times in order to create the best results?
What do you need to do today to create and encourage productive conflict in your team?