Ask anyone in your organization the first thing that comes to mind when they think about “conflict”, and it’s negative. This is why conflict continues to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in the workplace.
Conflict is the productive exchange of diverse ideas and opinions in a focused, efficient, unfiltered way. Teams must engage in conflict. Without conflict, decision-making suffers and relationships among team members stagnate. Worse, if conflict does not surface, it tends to degenerate to mean-spirited, back-channel comments made behind closed doors.
Redefining conflict as passionate debate is necessary to achieve resolution. Conflict generally arises when two “A Players” have distinctly different points of view over a key emotional issue. Here’s the challenge: they both think they’re right and guess what, they both can be! So now what do you do?
The 5 key options around conflict are: avoid it (we both lose); get aggressive (I win-you lose); acquiesce and give in (I lose-you win); compromise (mini win/lose for both of us) or collaborate and resolve (I win-you win).
Teams must learn to collaborate and resolve conflict. It’s about having the mindset and communication skills to work it out.
To be really good at working through team conflict, here are the 8 things you need to do:
- Introduce and acknowledge that the topic is difficult; call out that it’s a conflict.
- Watch out for artificial harmony – where people sit in silence and don’t participate.
- Have strong facilitation of the team, someone operating like an air traffic controller – controlling and guiding participation.
- Get everyone to weigh in – it’s usually only the most emotional, passionate people who speak up.
- After a timed discussion, pause to define and articulate the issue clearly.
- Brainstorm ideas and possible solutions then write them down.
- Come to a decision. This may need to be forced by the leader or facilitator, or the leader may need to take a stand to break the tie.
- Don’t strive for consensus – what we call “agree and commit”. This is fine if you can get it, but strive for “disagree and commit”. You may not agree but you must totally commit to and support the decision.
One of the most common dysfunctions on a leadership team occurs when the team leader believes they must achieve consensus for all decisions. Great teams make timely decisions around direction and priorities and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, avoiding the desire for consensus.
How do you create buy-in for a decision without consensus? You learn and embrace what it means to “disagree and commit”.
Here’s how it works. You need to make the distinction between “Agreement” and “Commitment.” You can feign agreement with artificial smiles, vacant stares (what I call the silent veto), or even outright political phoniness (advocating publicly it’s a great idea while privately despising it).
With commitment, you are all-in and will support the decision to the point where you will champion it even if you initially disagreed. Your own team of direct reports will see you being supportive.
There are only 3 choices for team decision-making:
- Agreement without commitment is compliance or passive/aggressive behavior. This is a toxic.
- Agreement with commitment equals consensus – a wonderful result when you achieve it (which teams will do quite often).
- Disagree and commit when you can’t achieve consensus. It’s okay while discussing the decision to debate, question, challenge or disagree. This is healthy because adults need to “weigh-in” to “buy-in”. This option allows for passionate debate but requires, at the end of the day, all team members to be supportive and aligned.
By establishing this practice, you’ll make a huge difference in achieving your goals and will create healthy alignment for the teams you lead.
Frequently, leaders, managers and employees tell me (with frustration) how ineffective their meetings are. It’s become a national, if not global, epidemic! From lack of focus to poor facilitation, people are wasting millions of hours a year which not only takes an economic toll but an emotional toll as well.
Are ineffective meetings draining company productivity? Adopt these 4 best practices and watch your meetings go from boring and mundane to compelling and engaging:
- Know Your Purpose – Be crystal clear about the purpose of the meeting. Ask yourself, is this meeting necessary? If the answer is yes, identify if it is to provide updates (reporting out and information sharing); or to problem-solve and make a decision. Clients tell me the typical ratio is 80/20 (info sharing to problem solving) where it should be the reverse.
- Use An Agenda – Stop fighting it and create an agenda template for every meeting. Lay out the timing and objectives of each section of the meeting. Be sure to distribute the agenda 24 hours in advance give people time to prep.
- Use Skilled Facilitators – This is a great opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of others on your team! Be sure to include a scribe, timekeeper and someone who is comfortable intervening when they see challenging behaviors (ranging from dominators to silence). Having a small cadre of leaders trained to become strong, effective facilitators will bring drastic improvements in your meetings.
- Finish Strong – Too often the hour is up and people are abruptly dropping off the call or packing up and running off to their next meeting. Schedule meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour. The final 5 minutes should include 3 essential things:
– Ask: “What decisions did we make today?” Agree and write it down.
– Complete the “Who-What-When” action register so there is accountability for unfinished items and next steps.
– Decide what info must be cascaded out of the meeting and to whom.
Meetings don’t have to be nightmares. They can be incredibly productive for speeding communication; accelerating decisions and healing relationships. Try following these 4 best practices and I guarantee success!
Do you hear these things in your company?
- “I didn’t know you were working on that.”
- “That’s great news! Why didn’t you tell me?”
- “I was working on that too.”
- “I could have helped if you told me.”
- “Things are chaotic and moving too fast.”
What if I said you could quickly eliminate issues around communication and execution if you started one new practice a day? Have a Daily Huddle! It takes discipline, a leader committed to the process and only 8-10 minutes a day.
Here’s how it works:
- Bring your team together at the same time everyday (use an “off” minute to start, such as 8:07am).
- Conduct the huddle standing up.
- Everyone needs to be prepared to answer:
– What is one piece of good news from yesterday?
– What is your most important priority for today?
– Where are you stuck or need help?
- The leader goes around the circle three times, asking one question per round.
- No problem-solving or extra discussion (the huddle is for raising problems, not solving them).
- Bookmark items to review/discuss after the huddle.
Each leadership team member then conducts a separate huddle with their team (the team they lead). Keep cascading this down in the organization.
By having a Daily Huddle you will:
- Speed things up in your organization
- Ensure teamwork
- Heal relationships
Try it for 30 days. I’m confident it will become part of your daily practice!