In the first of the recent two blogs, How to Ensure Success During a Major Corporate Change, we addressed the importance of building cohesive leadership teams – those that master the five behaviors: building trust, mastering conflict (around issues or ideas), achieving commitment, embracing accountability and, focusing on results.
In the second blog, Piranha Behavior on a Team, we discussed in more depth that the first discipline we have to master to make our teams great is trust. To build trust, team members need to be vulnerable around one another so that they are unafraid to speak up with honesty. Only team members who trust one another are going to feel comfortable engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate around issues and decisions. Otherwise, they are likely to hold back their opinions.
While conflict is often considered taboo, especially at work, people may spend inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team. Yet, conflict is the second discipline we must embrace in order to be a highly-effective and successful team. Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time.
Teams that avoid conflict – speaking their views, debating their perspectives and voicing unfiltered opinions – turn to unproductive and sometimes destructive measures. In these cases, team members are not listening to one another’s ideas and considering their own points of view; they are figuring out how to manipulate the conversation to get what they want. Or, they don’t even engage their colleagues face-to-face; instead, they vent about them in the hallway after the meeting is over.
Teams that fear conflict:
- Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive
- Waste time and energy with posturing and politics
- Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members, and
- Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success
These behaviors are team distractions, and are powerful destroyers of team success.Even among the best teams, conflict is at least a bit uncomfortable. It is unrealistic for a team member to say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with your approach to the project,” and not expect the other person to feel some degree of personal rejection. If team members are not making one another uncomfortable at times, if they never push one another outside of the emotional comfort zones during discussions, it is extremely likely that they are not making the very best decisions for the company.
The best teams are made up of people who are comfortable passionately arguing for their ideas. No one holds back their opinions – and everyone embraces conflict as the discipline necessary in the pursuit of truth or the very BEST possible answer for the organization.
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