12 Simple and Practical Tips for Embracing Healthy Conflict
Like it or lump it, conflict is an unavoidable part of team training
Conflict is a key issue for team training. How effectively the team deals with it will often determine their long-term success.
In last week’s blog I spoke about Patrick Lencioni’s “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” I gave tips and advice for overcoming the first dysfunction, an absence of trust. To check it out, click here.
Fear of conflict is the second dysfunction, and it stems from a sense of artificial harmony, or a desire to ‘keep the peace’ no matter what.
This means that all that passionate, productive debate you’d like from your meetings? You can’t expect it from a team that’s afraid of conflict!
Teams that face up to conflict and engage in it productively are more likely to have interesting meetings, solve problems quickly and keep office politics to a minimum.
Avoiding disagreements will do more harm than good in the long term, with passive aggression and back channel comments becoming more likely as team members don’t voice their opinions.
Is your team made up of people who are afraid to speak up and instead just nod along? Is this making your meetings boring? Artificial harmony may be the reason.
If this is a problem for your team training, put some of the tips below into action and see what happens.
12 tips for healthy and productive conflict
#1: Recognise the importance of conflict for productivity
Stress with your team the importance of getting things into the open, and bring up the benefits of engaging in healthy conflict in team training.
Conflict must be addressed in the open and not kept hidden.
#2: Understand and communicate your own conflict style
Consider your own reactions to conflict. Recognise any problems you have when facing up to conflict and take active steps to address them.
#3: Get to know the conflict styles of team members
The first step in dealing with fear of conflict is to understand the differences of team members when it comes to facing up to conflict.
TTI tools can give you an insight into people’s behaviours, driving forces (motivators), competencies, acumen capacity and EQ.
Producing a group wheel (as below) and putting it on the wall can serve as a reminder of the different styles of team members.
Get the team together for a meeting to discuss how they feel about conflict with one another, and the challenges they face.
#:4 Look for the opportunity
Where there is disagreement or conflict, there is an opportunity for tremendous growth and development.
Leverage conflict to get the best out of your people and clear the air. It can lead to innovation, greater team training and leadership development.
#5: Turn things around using requests
When we are annoyed with someone or in a position of conflict at work, it’s normal to focus on their negative behaviours or actions. We can be blinkered and only see what’s bothering us.
Upguard make the great point that turning complaints into requests can bring about a far better outcome.
It flips the tone from a negative to a positive one and creates an environment for a more productive conflict.
#6: Set the ground rules and define expectations for conflict
In your next team training, lay out the guidelines for healthy work conflict and encourage your team members to add their ideas.
#7: Empower employees to share in the heat of the moment
When conflict gets heated, many people shut down and stop engaging with the conversation because they become uncomfortable.
Conflict is far more effective and productive when people engage in healthy debate and push through the discomfort.
As a manager or an employer, give your team members permission in the heat of the moment to voice their opinions on an issue so that it can get resolved.
This can make a big difference to team training and to quality of relationships.
Mining is described by Lencioni as the practice of bringing up buried arguments or unresolved disagreements so that a team can work through them.
It can be uncomfortable and sometimes unnecessary, but mining in the right situation can help clear the air and improve working relationships.
#9: Are you really listening to what they have to say?
Beware of falling into the trap of artificial harmony. To avoid this, listen carefully to what everyone has to say.
Create an open and honest environment and let your team members voice their opinions.
#10: Avoid getting personal
When it comes to team training and conflict, people don’t respond well to personal attacks.
If you have something negative to address, direct it at a behaviour or ask the individual to do things in a different way. Don’t attack personality.
The same goes for taking things personally. It’s natural for emotions to run high during conflict, but try to put things into perspective.
#11: Address the most important issues first
For team training conflict, focus on the key areas of disagreement and deal with them first. This will make it easier to work through smaller issues with a better atmosphere.
#12: Choose your battles wisely
As Forbes points out, there’s no point in engaging in conflict for the sake of conflict.
On the other hand, if something is causing an issue then it’s important to resolve it. Usually people will get together to solve any issues if there is enough at stake.
As Patrick Lencioni once said in his “5 Dysfunctions of a Team”: “Our ability to engage in passionate, unfiltered debate about what we need to do to succeed will determine our future (Lencioni, 2002, p.101)”.
Fear of conflict comes from a desire to avoid disagreements and stems from a sense of artificial harmony. Where there is a fear of conflict, it’s unlikely that there will be true innovation or creativity.
Which of these 12 practices will make a difference to your team?
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UPCOMING WEBINAR: 8th March 2017 - '5 WAYS TO GUARANTEE TEAM SUCCESS'
Join me, Padraig Berry, and Ronan Flood for an in dept discussion where we will give you our best tips to forming highly successful teams.
Some of the topics we will cover are:
- Absence of Trust
- Fear of Conflict.
- Lack of Commitment.
- How to achieve Collective Success.