Let’s deal with it: constructive conflict

Two kids fight over a teddy bear

Whether it is children fighting over a toy or adults in political debate, you can find conflict around every corner. In business, I have seen strife between two co-workers on a manufacturing floor as well as a collision between executive vice-presidents in a board room. The situations and personalities vary yet the fundamental basis for conflict is the same – it is based on differences.

Simply being different does not necessarily create an issue. In fact, we know that having diverse leadership teams can provide tangible benefits. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies affirmed that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean.

Then what kind of differences cause conflict? Actually, conflict is triggered when differences in needs, values and motives come into play. Something core to ‘who you are’ or ‘what you need’ feels in jeopardy. Intense emotions can follow, from fear or apprehension to anger and even hatred.

One way to get through conflict constructively starts with understanding what is truly coming into contention. Here are some questions that can help with that:

  • “What’s your real need here?”
  • “What interests need to be served in this situation?”
  • “What values are important to you here?”
  • “What’s the outcome or result you want?”
  • “Why does that seem to be the best solution to you?”

By gaining clarity on the conflict we open the door for cooperation. Those involved can then attack the real problems rather than the people. Going for a win-win approach where the needs and values of both parties is clear then sets the stage for constructive conflict for mutual gain. While resolving conflicts take time and energy, you can come away with an outcome where both people benefit!

The questions above are from the Conflict Resolution Network. They have many free resources you can access including additional skills like the one above. If you need further help, Escape to Expand offers team workshop modules that provide practical approaches to managing constructive conflict within your teams.

Do you have an example where you were able to come to a win-win situation from what seemed to be a divisive struggle?

Doing what ONLY WE can do!

Sometimes you volunteer but many times it just happens…you end up on a team! Only we don’t always know exactly where to focus.

Even if the sponsor is clear about the desired outcome, it is NOT always clear how the people on the team can make the biggest impact. Each person may even be a “high-performer” yet putting them in a room (or Zoom) together does not automatically make a high performing team.

Doing what only we can do!

One concept to help is “doing what ONLY WE can do”. It begins with the members identifying what things they can do to add value as a team. Explore where the combined strengths of the team members come together. For example, what can they do together no other individual or group can. Sort the list so those requiring more team collaboration are at the top versus those centered on individual effort.

After that, further prioritize the list by thinking about how each item in the list impacts the company. It could be higher revenues, better sustainability, increased employee morale or other benefit. You don’t need a full ROI calculation but think in terms of orders of magnitude. What will bring the most benefits to the company as a whole?

The items where people add more value together AND deliver bigger impact to the company are the right ones to focus for the team. This helps clarify where collaboration brings the most value – doing what ONLY WE can do! 

Is there a path to build a high performing team?

A dysfunctional team

“Can someone tell me why we are working on this project?”

“It annoys me how they always interrupt and talk over everyone else...

“Our meetings always run over yet we don’t seem to get anything done!”

Do any of these sound familiar?

If you have worked on a team, chances are you have heard something like this…or worse! It is no one’s fault and everyone’s fault at the same time.

It doesn’t matter if you are working on the shop floor or sitting around the executive conference table. Confusion and dysfunction can be present in any level of your organization, including your executive leadership team.

How do you break through this and become a high performing team? It takes work. And it helps to start with some fun as well!

At Escape to Expand, we suggest you kick-off with an escape room experience. This is a fun team building event that also begins to reveal how the group is working together. From here, an expert consultant leads your team through a repeatable process based on years of practical experience. The facilitated sessions give your team clarity of purpose, tools to manage conflict, and ways to effectively execute on their plans.

These time-tested approaches and tools help you escape the confusion and expand your horizons!