Note: this is a series of weekly tips to build a functional, collaborative, aligned team.
Tip: Actually Have Conflict
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a tip about creating conflict norms for your team. Conflict norms give your team a predictable environment which makes it easier for them to engage in productive conflict around ideas. Healthy teams engage in healthy, productive conflict.
However, conflict norms don’t do any good if you don’t have conflict. Your team does not reap the benefits from healthy conflict…if it doesn’t actually engage in conflict.
It would be like a basketball player who sets up a basketball hoop in their front driveway but never actually goes out and shoots.
Which is why this week’s tip is to Actually Engage in Conflict.
This is a tip because we tend to stay away from any type of conflict or uncomfortable situation, especially in a team environment. (I have been a prime culprit of this tendency and have had to personally learn to lean into discomfort). We want to move on to the next topic or ask two people who have a disagreement to take it offline.
As a result, the team misses out on:
- The vulnerability-based trust that is built by leaning into discomfort (teams that have uncomfortable, healthy conversations have more trust than teams that don’t).
- Seeing how a disagreement was resolved (instead of the resolution being done offline).
- Getting the best ideas and solutions to a challenge or problem.
- Seeing a different perspective from the team’s current thinking.
Let’s get specific on how you could engage in actual healthy conflict this week:
- When a disagreement arises during a team meeting, instead of tabling it or taking it offline, stop and engage in it. Pull out the conflict norms for guidelines – better yet have those out at the beginning of the meeting, tell the team it is important that we engage in healthy conflict around ideas, and let the disagreement play out. Make it more important than the agenda.
- When there are no disagreements or opinions being expressed, ask each team member to share their opinion on the issue or decision being discussed. Remind them that it is important for everyone’s ideas to be heard, especially ones that disagree with the current team’s thinking.
The caveat is that we are not talking about destructive, interpersonal attacks. As Pat Lencioni describes it, we are talking about passionate debate around ideas. Ideological conflict. This is where your conflict norms come into play: creating a predictable environment as to how the team will engage in conflict.
Leverage your conflict norms. Engage in uncomfortable, healthy conflict. And go build a functional, collaborative, aligned team!