Build a Cohesive Leadership Team- Part 2: Mastering Conflict

Conflict is inevitable part of life. It is present in about every aspect of it; work, building a business, leading a team, working with coworkers and the list goes on.  Either there is conflict and we are talking about it or there is conflict and no one is talking about. The second principle to the building a cohesive leadership team is MASTERING THE CONFLICT.  In the book, The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, he gives a more thorough breakdown on how to tackle the elephant in the room.  Once you master the first principle, mastering the second one is the next step.

I’m sure many people like myself thought any conflict is bad for a team. But the fear and lack of conflict will cause problems for the team in the long run.

The type of conflict I’m talking about here is not a conflict that is based on people and their personalities. Instead, it is the productive and logical conflict where team members have a willingness to disagree on important issues and will make a decision together on how to move forward.

“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best answer.”

When all team members know that everyone else will be honest and admit when they don’t have the right answer and will acknowledge when someone else has a better idea, the fear of conflict is greatly reduced.

“Conflict without trust is politics, an attempt to manipulate others in order to win an argument regardless of the truth.”

There is a range of conflict dynamics that is described in what Patrick Lencioni calls “The Conflict Continuum”. There are two sides:

  1. Constructive (Artificial Harmony)- which is when people have fake and disingenuous agreements around everything.

  2. Destructive (Mean-Spirited Personal Attacks)- which is when people have nasty, relentless and destructive conflicts​​.​Image result for the conflict continuum diagram by patrick lencioni

When handling conflict, you want to be just to the left of the demarcation line (the middle of both sides). That is the “Ideal Conflict Point”. This is a point where a team is engaged in all the constructive conflict but never step over the line into the destructive side.

A way to spot conflict in a group discussion is to see if a team member is remaining silent. A topic or problem is brought up and once solutions are thrown out, they do not give feedback or engage in the discussion.

If this happens, Patrick suggests to get them in engaged so that the level of conflict is brought back to a healthy level where everyone at least acknowledges the decision made

At the end of every discussion, the leader should go around the room and ask every member of the team for a formal commitment to the decision. This helps the team members to acknowledge the decision to move forward and gives them an opportunity to say their final thoughts.

It is important to remember that trying to avoid conflict is not always the main problem because the real problem may lead back to the lack of trust within a team. If the team isn’t comfortable with being vulnerable with each other, they are not going to feel safe engaging in conflict. Trust must be established before mastering real conflict.

This is the 2nd of a 5 part blog series and each part is equally important in building a cohesive leadership team. In part 3, I will discuss the next principle “Achieving commitment”. As mentioned earlier, I sourced these great and important principles from an amazing book called The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, which you should check out!

Stay tuned over the next couple weeks to get a quick dive into each of these principles!

Julius Holt