The reference of “conflict resolution” has been around for a long time. Coined to entice leaders to address poor morale, little attention has been paid to embracing conflict as a necessary ingredient to forming healthy teams. I would love to say I am the first, ever, to write about this… But that is just not the case.
Most companies respond to the challenge of improving collaboration in entirely the wrong way. They focus on the symptoms (“Sales and delivery do not work together as closely as they should”) rather than on the root cause of failures in cooperation: conflict. The fact is, you can’t improve collaboration until you’ve addressed the issue of conflict. -HBR*
So why is it so hard for teams to embrace conflict? Easy. It’s uncomfortable, and for good reason. The very definition of conflict is not very positive, while the antonym of conflict is “Peace” for pity’s sake. You might be wondering, why is it that we are suggesting that conflict is good? Well, we aren’t. What we are saying is that it is necessary. Learning to disagree, vet solutions even in an agreement, and challenge status quo allows for opportunity. Conflict can make room for creativity, raising standards and mitigating risk. The longer (any) team exists without conflict, the more chance of failure when issues come up. The result is that the cousins to conflict come to visit and sometimes stay. In fact, you might even know them, they are disengagement, blame, and negativity–none of which lead to economic or cultural growth. A lose – lose for sure.
Team members who embrace conflict successfully have a few competencies that either come naturally, or they have worked hard to develop. We consider them the sisters to conflict and they are: effective listening, trust, and clarity of mission. With these tools, conflict can happen as a normal course of business without being disruptive or disrespectful. In fact, entrusting your team with your opinion might be the most respectful thing you can do. Indeed, an engaged staff is willing to be brave, ask questions and raise them as well. By allowing for differences of opinions, team members can be heard and listen at the same time understanding that while we may not always get our way — the process in itself is worth an excellent outcome.