Roosevelt admitted that at first she found few issues compelling enough to drive
her into confrontations or unpleasantness, but as her leadership passion grew
Eleanor accepted conflict as inevitable "so we can prove our strength and
demand respect for our wishes."
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relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in
order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and
conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially at work. And
the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending
inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate
debates that are essential to any great team.
important to distinguish productive ideological conflict from destructive
fighting and interpersonal politics. Ideological conflict is limited to
concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks.
However, it can have many of the same external qualities of interpersonal
conflict -- passion, emotion, and frustration -- so much so that an outside
observer might easily mistake it for unproductive discord.
that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the
best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and
resolve issues more quickly and completely than others, and they emerge from
heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an
eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.
teams that avoid ideological conflict often do so in order to avoid hurting team
members' feelings, and then end up encouraging dangerous tension. When
team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often
turn to back-channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful
than any heated argument over issues.
It is also
ironic that so many people avoid conflict in the name of efficiency, because
healthy conflict is actually a time saver. Contrary to the notion that
teams waste time and energy arguing, those that avoid conflict actually doom
themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution. They
often ask team members to take their issues "off-line," which seems to
be a euphemism for avoiding dealing with an important topic, only to have it
raised again at the next meeting.
How does a
team go about developing the ability and willingness to engage in healthy
conflict? The first step is acknowledging that conflict is productive, and
that many teams have a tendency to avoid it. As long as some team members
believe that conflict is unnecessary, there is little chance that it will occur.
environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive
controversial topics that are critical to team success
tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management
engage in conflict...
lively, interesting meetings
and exploit the ideas of all team members
real problems quickly
critical topics on the table for discussion
Five Dysfunctions of a Team,
by Patrick Lencioni
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