In my last article, I talked about the first of five interpersonal attributes that enable successful teams to efficiently reach their goals, the need for every successful team member to possess harmonizing skills. Today, I’ll focus on the power of allowing your team to have conflict around ideas.
Think of each of these articles as a layer, or level, of a pyramid, beginning with trust at the bottom of the pyramid. We talked about trust and respect in the first article of this series. I explained how trust truly is the foundation of great teams and how, without a strong foundation, your team will struggle to achieve success.
As a teenager, I took my driver’s license test and, for some reason that I cannot explain, I can still remember one of the questions:
“When making a left turn from a two-way street onto a two-way street, where should your vehicle be placed?”
While I do not remember all four of the possible answers, I do remember the correct one: “To the right of and as close to the center line as possible.” Now I know you are wondering, what does this have to do with conflict, except that many of us experience conflict with other drivers on a regular basis? To answer that, let’s convert the intersection to a line of continuum. Often, team meetings revolve around making decisions on one topic or another. The more complicated the topic or project, the longer the process and the likelier it is that you’ll need to have multiple meetings.
Sometimes there is little discussion. No one raises any questions or concerns, and everyone agrees with the first decision brought up. The challenge here is that, once the meeting is over, the number of comments outside of the meeting can be numerous. In many cases, people are talking behind the backs of their teammates. Nothing is accomplished and, the majority of the time, the team moves forward with an action plan that is less than desirable. Several weeks later, the team gets back together to solve the same challenge. In short, not productive and probably damaging to the team’s morale. The “Zero Conflict” scenario, is on the far right of the line of continuum.
In another meeting, the team gets together and is quite vocal. As ideas are introduced, they are immediately shot down. In some cases, comments such as “That idea is stupid.” or, “What are you thinking about?” bring colleagues to heated conversations with each other. It doesn’t take long for these comments to become personal attacks. Again, nothing gets accomplished, and the team is demoralized. The “Personal Attack” scenario is on the far left on the line of continuum.
The most successful teams embrace conflict around ideas. This means that everyone on the team feels safe to open up with their thoughts and ideas without fear of retribution or personal attacks. When this concept is implemented successfully, a different point of view emerges. Healthy discussions emerge around ideas and no one feels threatened.
We must recognize that cohesion does not occur when teammates are smarter or when superior technology is present. Rather, cohesion begins to evolve when teammates receive constant indicators of safe connections with their colleagues.
Cohesion does not occur when teammates are smarter or when superior technology is present.
Looking at our line of continuum, the most successful teams recognize the power to have conflict around ideas and, in this scenario, they find themselves to the right of and as close to the center line as possible.
As powerful as this is, keep in mind that conflict around ideas is very difficult to accomplish until vulnerability trust has been achieved throughout the team. Likewise, the next level of gaining full commitment from everyone on the team is a struggle until the team has mastered conflict around ideas.
Next time, I’ll talk about the role a unified mission plays for successful teams. Until then, be sure to make it a “we-markable week.”
With more than 1,500 keynotes, breakout sessions, and training workshops under his belt, Gregg Gregory is the teambuilding mastermind America needs today. A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) with more than 25 years working at all levels within in corporate America, Gregg’s experience goes beyond expectations. His expertise and articles have appeared in hundreds of business and trade publications, including SellingPower.com and Boardroom Magazine, as well as appearing on Blog Talk Radio. Follow Gregg and Teams Rock on Twitter @TeamsRock and on Facebook and LinkedIn .