Patrick Lencioni provides great insight into the value of healthy conflict in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Leaders must lead and facilitate healthy, productive conflict so that relationships, teams and organizations will grow, mature and become the best they can be. This is essential for working together to find the best solutions, build the best relationships and teams, and for the greater good of our families, workplace and communities. This simple yet powerful model helps us understand and improve relationships, families, teams, companies, communities, governments and even countries.
With artificial harmony, thoughts, feelings and ideas are usually stuffed down and kept from others. To preserve a false sense of peace, we just keep thoughts, feelings and ideas to ourselves rather than sharing them. We may share them privately and at times inappropriately out of frustration rather than with the person or team that would benefit from our input. Decisions, relationships and results suffer because we're not participating in an open, honest conversation.
On the other hand, wherever there are mean-spirited personal attacks, people are often hurt deeply, falsely accused, bullied, and intentionally intimidated into silence. To keep others from challenging or disagreeing with us, dominant, outspoken people tend to be over controlling and inflict pain on others to shut them up. Not only is this hurtful, but it's also disrespectful. It cheats the person or the team of everyone's input. Again, decisions, relationships and results suffer because we are discouraging folks from participating in an open, honest conversation.
Open, honest conversations are built on respect and really listening to understand and appreciate others especially those who are different from us. We must be willing to get out of our comfort zone. Some of us need to speak up more. On the other hand, some of us need to shut up and listen more. Expect everyone to participate and share their input.
When relating and working together, we need to strive for the "ideal conflict point"(diagram). Passionate discussions and debates need to become the norm. Occasional heated disagreements may be necessary. Emotional conversations stretch us. They may at times be uncomfortable or difficult at least initially. But just like working out or exercise, our stamina, endurance and willingness to embrace momentary discomfort will increase as we experience the positive benefits of healthy conflict.
It's important for us to remember that there's a fine line between constructive and destructive conflict. Let's keep conversations from becoming destructive. Instead, we must learn to keep them at or near the "ideal conflict point" to increase transparency, authenticity and productivity. Over time, this will lead to better results and relationships.
Questions: What's your default way of handling conflict - artificial harmony or personal attacks? How does this affect you, your family, your work or your business? How can you lead others to embrace healthy conflict?
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