LEADERS WELCOME PRODUCTIVE CONFLICT
When I was a young leader, I had a tendency to avoid conflict. I actually thought that conflict was bad for the workplace. I realize now where I learned that paradigm. I grew up in a house with significant verbal conflict.
Both my father and my brother were high-strung, and there were many verbal altercations between them. My mother acted as the peacemaker throughout my childhood. When I entered the work world after law school, and quickly became a manager, I adopted my mother’s approach as my leadership style without even realizing it.
Therefore, in conversations and meetings, I always strived to move conflict aside, to push it under the rug, or to minimize it at all costs. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was promoting a calm and peaceful workplace. People seemed happy.
Only after studying leadership and speaking with leaders much wiser than me did I realize that conflict is essential for any organization that wishes to grow and progress. So many people are raised with the admonition that it’s important to be polite and to avoid making waves. I was one of those people, and my leadership suffered as a result. I never learned the difference between “productive conflict” and “bad conflict.”
Conflict is necessary in any organization if we want to improve the four p’s:
There is always a natural tension between competing or different ideas. The best leaders welcome that tension because they know diversity of approaches and ideas leads to better solutions. It is the wise leader who encourages different ideas expressed with respect and curiosity.
A business culture based upon mutual respect and personal dignity, can make huge strides by welcoming conflict and managing that conflict in healthy, communicative ways. So I encourage you to take a step back and reflect upon how your office manages conflict on a day-to-day basis.
-What can you do to make conflict safe for yourself and your teammates?
-How can you encourage the healthy expression of conflict?
-What steps can you take to serve as a role model when it comes to expressing and managing conflict?
-How can you help your own teammates examine their personal attitudes towards conflict?
-What can you do to make safe conflict part of your office culture?
-How can you turn prospective fights into problems to solve?
-How can you clarify expectations surrounding conflict?
-How can you normalize healthy tension and avoid unhealthy friction?
Contrary to what I used to think, when I was a young leader, conflict is not something to be avoided. It is something to be welcomed. Your business goal is not to have everyone agree. It is to possess confidence in the decision-making process and those decisions that get made.
Conflict can be addressed and handled in a transparent, communicative, respectful and empathic manner. If done appropriately, it can be a true asset for your workplace.