Following last week’s post, the second characteristic of an effective team is the ability to engage in a Healthy Conflict. This is where we address the tough issues with a constructive, yet passionate debate. When your team has the foundation of trust, healthy debate and conflict defines how you can disagree with the ideas that your team members present without needing to attack each other personally. Following are three features of healthy conflict to develop in your team.
The meeting-before-the-meeting and the meeting-after-the-meeting are where a lot of teams spend their time. While it is important to be prepared for scheduled meetings, these meetings, before and after, have a different hidden agenda: to influence you, the leader, directly without the other members present. As a leader, you need to be aware of when members of your team are avoiding open discussion and trying to influence you directly. Be quick to redirect the team member, identifying that this is a topic for the whole team to discuss. This removes the political positioning that happens with dysfunctional groups.
Some topics are difficult to address, but a healthy team is able to deal with difficult topics. As the leader, when a difficult topic needs to be discussed, acknowledge up front the potential sensitivities along with the reason the issue is critical to discuss. Set out the criteria for a successful conversation: What level of agreement you are looking for? How do you want your team members to participate? (Hint: Give each person, one at a time, a chance to articulate their point of view. Then, summarize what you hear from each person.) Once ground rules are set, debate on the ideas while supporting the team members. Remember that, as a leader, as you articulate a preference, you limit the debate. In some cases, you may choose to do that. Just remember that your point of view holds more weight. Only wield it when you want to exercise that power and limit debate.
As a leader, you want to facilitate the discussion to encourage the healthy debate. Part of that facilitation is creating a norm where when a team member provides feedback to another member, that feedback needs to be actionable. Ask the question: What does that look like going forward?
When you facilitate your team, eliminate the political positioning. Address tough issues, even when they are sensitive, and make sure that feedback is actionable. This will Nurture Growth in your team and radiate out to the organization as a whole.