Conflict

“I feel like they are genuinely interested in hearing my opinion.  And because I trust and respect them, even when they decide differently from the way I wanted, I can support the decision.”


That quote came from an employee I was interviewing at a member company.  He was helping us determine what was truly unique about this company.  He feels free and even invited to offer his opinion.  Because they genuinely are interested and sometimes factor his ideas into the solutions, he is okay even when it doesn’t go his way.  How good is that?

If we can solve that first issue of trust we talked about in the last post, we can move onto the next dysfunction of a team, fear of conflict.  Turns out that an environment of trust is essential unless a conflict is merely going to be a means to the end of one person winning and being right.

Unfortunately, that is the environment that many of us grew up in and maybe even have experienced in most of our corporate life.  More often than not, conflict is not tolerated or is a zero-sum game where one side of the disagreement is almost always right.  Being right is most often associated with power…either the senior leader in an organization or the head of a family.

Being an entrepreneur or rising to senior leadership meant that you either had to provide every answer or more of the right answers than others.  Beginning to believe that others' dissenting views might actually have some value is an unfamiliar idea to manage.  Senior leaders often bristle when we tell them…

Your team can make a better decision than you can.

The collective wisdom of the experts in their appointed tasks will arrive at better, more comprehensively viable solutions, with more minds and hearts involved in the decision making.  Period.  

If you are going to make a significant company decision, you better have the key representation of sales, marketing, administration, and production in the room.  As lofty and experienced as your line of sight is, the collective perspective of the team will produce better decisions.

You might be saying, “but you don’t know my team” or “you don’t know the knuckleheads that work for me", but I do.  

I know that the people you are overseeing doing those things, know more about "those things" than you do.  

I know they see things you don’t see.  

I know they experience implications of decisions you don’t realize.

I know they are a likely repository of untapped good ideas and thoughts that you crucially need to hear.

When we talk about conflict, we are talking about ideological differences and not destructive fighting or personal attacks.  Productive conflict and open engagement produce the best answers in the shortest amount of time.  

That feels a little bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

But no conflict results in poor solutions.

Unhealthy conflict results in no solutions.

Healthy conflict produces the best solutions.

We actually encourage the leaders we work with to “mine” for conflict.  They liken that to “looking for trouble”.  Who wants to do that?!  You should, if you want to find the best solutions in the quickest way possible.

If you're building that foundation of trust we talked about last time, it should pave the way for earning the right to have healthy conflict and the best results.

Consider

  • Do you typically have all the right answers?
  • Does your team feel comfortable disagreeing with you?
  • Are your team members able to get behind the decisions made, even when they disagree with them?
  • How much is it costing you to not be mining for conflict and finding better solutions?