The Conflict Continuum

Note:  This post is about the #2 issue plaguing good decision making in business and solving some of the crazy scenarios presented in the last three week's offerings. As promised last week here is another (actual) case history from my previous client folder. Enjoy.

By now some of you may be weary of my almost hero worship of Patrick Lencioni, the author of many management books on how to create organizations that last and building high performing teams. I guess my rationale for this is simple - he makes sense! There are only so many variations on the quantitative side of the business world to squeeze out more performance from people, machinery, and technology. Lencioni postulates that even the highest performing organizations and companies in the world are only operating at 60% of their actual potential. The remaining 40% resides on the qualitative side of the ledger and is seemingly harder to measure in conventional business terms, so most leaders and CEO's focus on bearing down harder on the quantitative aspect of the P&L.

The Gallup Corporation
Here's something else for those leaders and you to chew on; in a previous post from November 8, 2014, I quoted some statistics from the Gallup Corporation's survey of the American workplace over a 15 year period from 2000 to 2015. It shows that 70% of workers in America are neither emotionally engaged nor working in a job that taps their full potential and only 30% like or find purpose in what they do every day. Still thinking you can get that 40% from your staff by bearing down and asking them to work harder? Seems doubtful, doesn't it?

Creating High Performing Teams
Instead, why not put some serious effort into the qualitative side of human engineering and build some real teamwork at the C-Suite level first; once that is done and done well, the troops will fall into place once they see that "Mom and Dad" are in concert on a direction and decision making.

Easy to Say; Harder to Do?
Yes and no. Like any worthwhile journey in life, the first step is the most important. As the leader, getting your first team on board is critical. Also, be prepared for some exits; some will not be up to the challenge, and that's OK; let them go and find those that are. The five most essential qualities of a high-performing team are:

  1. Trust;
  2. Conflict;
  3. Commitment;
  4. Accountability; and,
  5. Results.

The subject of trust can take up a whole blog, but that's for another time. Today I want to focus on the 2nd most significant barrier to creating a high performing team - conflict.

Fear of Conflict
How many of you were raised in a family that encouraged conflict to resolve problems? Probably not many of you; in my work, I find few that know how to engage in "professional conflict." That's the root of the problem; most people equate engaging in conflict with yelling, screaming, and personal attacks; what I call, "destructive conflict." Both types of conflict exist, but you are in control of that. Here is what it looks like in the graphic to the left - it is a continuum and strong conflict results in good resolution and decisions.

Types of Conflict Modes
Thirty years ago, Thomas Kilmann created a system to measure what predisposition people chose to resolve a conflict. No surprise; it is called the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Inventory or the TKI. He postulated that people fall into one of five modes when resolving conflict; or, at least, one or more modes might dominate their individual style of doing so. Using 40 questions and the resulting algorithm, he came up with a bar graph that describes which modes people choose first when attempting to resolve a conflict.

The First Step is Understanding
Once people get insight into each others conflict styles, and with interpretation from a facilitator, real and meaningful engagement teamwork can occur, where business challenges can be discussed and resolved by having conflict, not avoiding it.

The Second Step is:
Creating rules for engagement for the team and conflict norms to guide the team to having healthy conflict. But, that'll be next week; stay tuned.

Note: Next week - how to have healthy conflict.