I’m preparing for a session with a team that has significant conflict issues. Half the team is engaging in personal, nasty, and divisive conflict. The other half of the team is disengaging and hiding from the conflict. Both are major issues.
It is a great reminder that most of us are struggling to find that magical spot that I call Productive Conflict. In this post I’ll provide some tips for the conflict avoidant. In my next post, I’ll focus on the conflict mongers.
If you avoid conflict…
1. Change your mindset:
The most important thing you can do to address your conflict-avoidant tendencies is to remind yourself that disagreements and diversity of thought about issues are necessary for real progress. Focus on how you’re contributing to a better solution not on how you’re disagreeing with another person.
Repeat after me: “I am improving the idea not disrespecting my teammate.”
2. Introduce new ideas indirectly:
If you don’t feel comfortable stating your concerns as the absolute truth, use less direct approaches.
Ask a question “What might be the impact of this on our retail customers?”
You can also ask your teammate to imagine a hypothetical. “If we just imagine that we stop dealing with the bottom 20% of customers, how would that affect our revenue and our profit?”
3. Add a new truth:
I’m a big proponent of talking about the Two Truths of every argument.
Try agreeing with a teammate and then adding another truth that might be quite independent of your teammate’s point. “I agree that we should be getting this to market quickly. I also think we need to make sure there aren’t any fatal flaws in the design. How do we move as quickly as possible without risking significant errors?”
4. Open yourself up to feedback
Make sure your teammates know that you are open to hearing their ideas and concerns. “This project is really new for us, so it’s important that you share your concerns early so I can really fine tune the approach.”
If you are conflict-avoidant, you’re not going to succeed in an organization and you’re not going to contribute effectively to your team. You’re also fooling yourself because regardless of whether you’re hearing it or seeing it, conflict is going on all around you. Better to hear it directly than have it whispered behind your back.