Elephant in the room

Is your team having enough conflict?

Reading time: 2 mins 3s

This was no ordinary Leadership Team. 

Their discussions flowed quickly to the most important and difficult issues.

There was very little of the fake harmony that characterizes the dynamics of so many teams.

Their conversations were passionate and unguarded. Team members voiced their opinions and views even if this meant disagreeing with each other.

All this happened inside their meetings. There was no corridor talk about each other to third parties.

Loyalty to the absent was one of their most sacred rules.

Dr. Stephen R Covey

This set them apart.

Many teams prefer to talk about one another. Not about what is really going on. Not this one!

I also noticed the team was very respectful and human with one another.

What was the result?

  • They solved real problems.
  • They made decisions.
  • Bottlenecks disappeared.

But it also had another effect.

  • There was no politics.

Making the best decisions for their organisation became an obsession.

The focus of the business shifted to where it needed to be … winning the hearts and minds of customers.

This set the tone for the next layer of leaders and their teams.

They fixated on not becoming complacent.

The bigger picture was that their entire marketplace was changing. Competitors and technologies were threatening and disruptive.

They could not afford for hubris and mediocrity to take hold.

A new Executive who joined the team found it very difficult at first.

He was uncomfortable with this level of transparency and candor. He was used to sheltered, conflict-averse environments, and to navigating corporate politics.

But the leader of the business was clear.

He liked to say … “if you’re not regularly pushing one another outside of your emotional comfort zone, you’re not making the best decisions for the business.”

This set the tone and he was unapologetic about it.

It was often a little messy.

Sometimes he pushed too hard and it felt personal.

But his motive was always consistent and transparent. It was always about making the best decisions for the business.

Motive meaning

At the same time, I noticed how hard he worked to build trust and respect in the team.

The team really valued this.

The new Executive quickly realised that being on this team was good for him too. It represented a critical growth point in his career.

He told me it was like waking up after a very long sleep.

My journey with this team has been an absolute highlight of my consulting career.

Their environment remains disruptive and ultra-competitive. Big players with deep pockets and massive ambitions are encroaching on their space. It will always be that way.

But I’ll bet my money on them making it.

I bet they will continue to figure out ways to innovate and solve problems faster than their competitors.

That’s because they have done what few teams ever manage to do.

They have mastered conflict.


What’s the lesson? 

  1. Passionate, Unfiltered Debate (PUD) is necessary for building commitment and making good decisions.
  2. Trust and respect build loyalty. It also removes the personal risks, and makes PUD a possibility.
  3. Confusion, politics, and ambiguity have a high cost. Eliminating these is the #1 job of the Leadership Team.

We love hearing from you. Please comment below. Do you think mastering conflict is critical on a team? What happens if you don’t?

Would you like to build a great leadership team? Contact me to find out how … grant@leadershipworks.co.za

 

 

6 replies
  1. Steve Hall
    Steve Hall says:

    Great piece Grant.
    It is such an easy thing to sweep under the carpet, and tempting to go for the artificial harmony, but the real progress really lies in the honesty…with humanity of course!

    Reply

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