You’ve probably been a member of a team before where everyone automatically agrees about everything. Typically, one person forcefully dominates such teams, to the point where it’s easiest to go along with what that person decides just to avoid conflict. But anyone who rubberstamps team decisions is guilty of bad team membership, because this kind of groupthink kills initiative, hurts engagement, and damages productivity.
Live Wire or Dead Battery?
I’d never recommend that team members go at each other hammer-and-tongs, but a certain level of conflict is healthy. Saying, “I don’t think that’s our best course of action, and here’s why” is desirable.
Even geniuses like Einstein aren’t always right. Einstein fought quantum theory at first, but 100 years later it’s the best-tested physical theory in existence, the basis of all modern electronics. The truth is most ideas deserve a significant amount of discussion before they’re discarded or implemented, because discussion helps determine whether the plan’s worth pursuing, hammer out flaws, and add new details to the plan.
In a team where everyone contributes and makes a communal decision as a result of healthy debate, productivity and its most important offspring—results—tend to rule, and the team itself is healthier. There’s even a name for this in business circles: creative disagreement. If you don’t see it in your team, consider instigating it, even if you’re not the leader. Put your ideas out there confidently, and maybe others will do the same.
Now, some people just want to be right. Your goal here is to help them get beyond that: to listen to and understand what they think; to encourage a plausible solution you can all implement quickly; to help clarify core values, mission, and vision; to set realistic goals—and to encourage people to disagree with you. Sometimes the final result shines brighter when it’s shaped and challenged by your teammates.
Consider Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, arguably the most volatile of frenemies in the computer industry of the 1980s to the 2000s. While Jobs was alive, they carried on a running competition to see whose company could top the other. We all won as a result. Between them and their competitors, we now have handheld computers and smartphones with capacities equivalent to hundreds of ENIACs, the first room-sized electronic computers.
Don’t argue just to argue, but do challenge other team members when you have legitimate differences of opinion. They may win you over, you may win them over, or you may agree to disagree. But as long as the disagreement remains constructive, a livelier team will result—and lively teams achieve more.
How do you put conflict into play on your own team?
© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, a.k.a. The Productivity Pro®, helps professionals achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. For over 20 years, her keynote speeches and workshops have helped leaders boost personal and team productivity, increase results, and save time at work. Laura is the author six books, most recently Execution IS the Strategy. Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.