Teamwork includes the potential for conflict. Interpersonal conflict around ideas may lead to conflict between individuals.
LETTING CONFLICT SHIFT FROM IDEAS TO INDIVIDUALS
Counterintuitive thinking suggests that an idea appears to be the opposite of what one would expect. Conflict is thought to be destructive to team processes and productivity. That assumption is correct when leaders allow conflict to move from competing ideas to competing individuals. Effective leaders wrestle with the best methods of managing interpersonal conflict. The idea is to build a culture that values conflict but limits it to ideas. How is it achieved?
IDENTIFY COMMON GROUND
Leaders keep followers from the slippery slope of interpersonal conflict by communicating and modeling the need for dissimilarity on every high-performing team. Groups of individuals who are identical replicas miss the creative potential of team diversity. Common ground is based on a commitment to the unique contribution each member brings to the discussion.
» Use the assessment of choice: StrengthsFinder, DISC, MBTI, SIMA.
» Invest the time to distinguish the individuality of each team member.
» Schedule opportunities for the team to fully understand the variations of personality, perspective, and preference.
» Affirm and celebrate the differences.
» Begin to work in a way that synthesizes individual distinctions
BUILD ON THE POSITIVE
Starting with problems while looking for solutions misses the treasure of reflecting on what is going well. Appreciative Inquiry is a counterintuitive approach that looks at expanding what an organization does well rather than correcting what it is wrong. Inquire from employees, vendors, and customers. Appreciate the positive. Establish your foundation for innovation by expanding what has been affirmed. Rather than just fixing the issues, consider how to multiply your assets. Every team member brings a collection of competencies that can be woven together to expand the existing strengths of the organization.
» Appreciate the best of who you are as a team. » Anticipate how you can be more effective.
» Align a diverse team to strategically close that gap.
» Achieve by collaborating across typical workplace boundaries to
create best practice innovation that transforms the organization.
GAIN CONSENSUS ON GROUND RULES
Values establish the foundation of how individuals work together on shared goals. Participation in determining the values brings a personal commitment to each idea. Brainstorming the guidelines for mutually expected behavior guarantees an equal voice for all participants. Consider the following benchmarks in the face of competing ideas:
» We value the team.
» We value different ways of thinking.
» We value disagreement around competing ideas.
» We value the hard work of getting to consensus without the need for unanimity.
» We value the shared commitment to final decisions.
» We value the ability to say “we” rather than the need to say “I.”
Ask team members to weight each of these benchmarks on a scale from 1 to 5 (5 has the highest weight). Items will be weighted differently by the perspective of each team member. Then discuss the weighting and the ranking to move toward team consensus. It is a messy process that takes time, but in the end you get a group on common ground and gain a consensus that each one can support. With shared ground rules, team members can be in conflict around ideas without it becoming personal.
NEGOTIATE THE CONVERSATION
Leaders maximize the contribution of each individual and the collective work of every team. They protect the value and voice of each team member rather than giving into a collective mindset. Leadership also guards the group from the dysfunction of any particular individual. Mindful of the benefits as well as the hazards of conflict, leaders leverage conflict around competing ideas while keeping conflict from dividing individuals and destroying teams. Consider the following:
» Intentionally create teams of dissimilar individuals.
» Verbally describe the benefits of that interpersonal variation.
» Cast vision of the potential for collaborative contribution.
» Shape a culture that anticipates competing ideas.
» Direct heated discussion toward best-thinking conclusions.
» Confront groupthink and its impact on outlying team members.
» Challenge individual dysfunction that prevents the group from ultimate productivity.
Leaders understand the counterintuitive idea that the pathway to innovative best practices includes conflict. The leadership challenge is to leverage conflict for creativity and innovation. The leadership mistake is allowing conflict to shift from ideas to individuals.
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