Last week I talked about the importance of trust among members of a good team. One of the primary reasons that team members need to trust one another if because healthy, productive teams need to fight.
Conflict, or debate if you prefer, among team members isn’t something that team leaders should avoid – in fact, the opposite is true: We need to encourage it. In Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni notes that teams that can be passionate and unguarded in their discussions will have better thought through decisions (often in shorter times). I completely agree and have watched my teams accomplish the same thing because they are not wasting time and energy trying to protect themselves or their ‘territory’.
More so, when conflict in meetings is avoided, back-channel attacks become common place and your workplace begins to fill with an odd brand of politics (oddly enough, debate will lead to less politics). The workplace can also stagnate because controversial topics are avoided. In church life this can be extremely detrimental because we’re dealing with a controversial and offensive gospel.
If you are a team leader and you’ve gotten to a place where your team trusts on another, it’s time to begin to mine for conflict. Often times, people have spent so much time on teams were back-stabbing and conflict avoidance was common place that conflict will need to be pulled out of them. You’ll need to read body language and ask people to respond with what they are really thinking.
Of course, like trust, you also set the standard. If you are not willing to model appropriate conflict or if you avoid controversial issues, you’re team won’t debate one another either. Another thing you will need to watch for is your own tendency to protect your team (from one another). Don’t jump in too early to come to a team members defense. Trust them and see if the resolution can occur naturally.
If you build trust in your team and acknowledge that debate leads to better solutions than garnering consensus you’ll be well on your way to having a strong, effective team.