I’ve had the opportunity to work on many leadership teams over the years. Some were healthy. Others were highly dysfunctional.
But one thing I’ve noticed is that all teams have conflict. In fact, you’ll always have conflict when there is more than you in the room (or maybe that’s my problem!)
But I’ve also notices that great leadership teams also have conflict. But it’s so different than the conflict you encounter in the unhealthy team.
All conflict is not bad. In fact… healthy, positive conflict is a great thing. It actually makes your team BETTER!
Thom Rainer gives us six reasons that ‘positive’ disagreement is a good thing on your leadership team:
1. Good leaders will have strong opinions. It’s a good sign when team members speak up with good insights. It means the leader has assembled an “A” team with members who are confident and informed.
2. An organization needs differing perspectives. My leadership team is comprised of seven unique leaders, each helping us see issues in a different light. We have made some good decisions and avoided some bad decisions because of the collective wisdom of strong leaders with different viewpoints.
3. Healthy debate and differences create “aha” moments. One of the fascinating parts of being on a healthy team is to watch the momentum of a healthy debate. As one member challenges another, we sometimes make a “discovery” that a single perspective would not have engendered. Some of our better decisions have come in the midst of a rather heated debate among team members.
4. Conflict can help identify the stronger team members. If leaders understand that peers will challenge them, they are likely to be better prepared to deal with those challenges. In that process, stronger leaders emerge. They have done their homework. They think on their feet well. They are not intimidated or threatened when someone questions their insights.
5. Conflict engenders cross training. Team leaders have different experiences, backgrounds, leadership styles, and responsibilities. As they interact with one another in healthy debates, each member can learn from the other. “Iron sharpens iron” may be a cliché, but it is nevertheless true.
6. Team members that fight together are more likely to be united in purpose. At first blush, that statement may sound counterintuitive. But healthy debate allows each member to speak his or her mind. Each member is free to make contributions. Each member is valued. As long as the differences of opinion do not degenerate into hurt feelings and true animosity, the team becomes stronger and ultimately works together better.
What is the best (and worst) team that you’ve ever worked on?