Leadership Insights

Leadership insights from a (reasonably) normal bloke to provoke, challenge & inspire. To subscribe please click on the envelope on the right of the green bar below

Conflict has the answer

Conflict has the answer

We’ve all been there. A difficult team meeting followed by furtive ‘corridor conversations.’ But not only have we been frustrated by these secret conversations – we will almost certainly have participated in them too. These conversations do far more than vent frustration – because in effect they undermine the very fabric of the team.

For the team to function effectively everything needs to be said in the room as a team. Holding back opinions, concerns and ideas until after the meeting weakens the decisions made, weakens the commitment to them, weakens relationships and weakens the team. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the most effective teams will say what they really think in the meeting room so the team can have a full, clear picture before reaching a conclusion.

However, this takes understanding, an inclination to listen as a team, and most of all the courage to be vulnerable.

Understanding comes from the recognition that everyone is different and will therefore look at things from a different perspective. When members accept that different perspectives will only serve to strengthen the team they will choose to listen to what others have to say. When your team spend time together out of their ‘comfort zone’ and within the ‘vulnerability zone’ it not only allows them to build deeper connection, but enables them to become more open with one another.

That’s why ‘outward bound’ type team building programmes have been so popular over the years. The only problem being that many teams struggle to bring their learning back into the workplace because the world of ropes and trees is so different to the world of meeting rooms and corridors. However, if your team have sat in a room and shared what is going on inside their heads once, it is much easier to do it a second time, and then a third. And so a team develops the muscles to say what they are really thinking when they are together without saving it for when they are apart.

It’s too easy when the situation gets a little tense to hold back ‘just in case’, to ‘pour oil on troubled waters’ and attempt to dampen any tension down. But the best leaders welcome and even encourage conflict.

We are not referring to combative conflict, where individuals seek to score points off each other or where debates become all too personal. What we are talking about is constructive conflict.

Both forms of conflict exist outside the comfort zone so it is common for teams to shy away from them – but a team that avoids all forms of conflict will struggle to get to grips with the real issues, will struggle to get everyone aligned and committed to the same outcome, and will therefore struggle to make progress. Wise leaders know the value of getting everything on the table and will encourage their teams to step out of the comfort zone. Rather than being worried about taking conflict too far we would be much better off to worry about not taking it far enough! A team who are truly connected can recover from taking conflict too far, but a team that fail to take it far enough will never really connect – or deliver.

So - are you encouraging appropriate conflict - or are you killing your team by letting them bury it?

Perfect leaders don't inspire anyone
Look after your shed!

Related Posts