We Stink at Conflict!

Accountability Organizational culture Productivity


Key Point: If you stink at conflict, you will shortchange your ability to flourish as an individual, contributor and leader. Dr. Liane Davey has a great book, You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done. It is an insightful and useful book that outlines very practical ways of working together. Davey’s view is that building great teams starts with you. Those of you familiar with the self-accountability element of The Character Triangle will resonate with this “You First” philosophy. The author goes on to highlight and elaborate on five key areas for building great teams: Starting with a positive assumption, adding your full value, amplifying other voices, knowing when to say “no” and “yes”, and embracing productive conflict. Each area is important but I want to focus on conflict.

Over my 40 plus working years, conflict avoidance and/or dysfunctional behavior can be toxic to individuals, teams and organization culture. On the other hand, constructive and productive conflict is vital. We need to embrace each other’s views and that means embracing valuable productive and necessary disagreement.

Learning how to have fierce, crucial, and rich conversations is a key part of the productive conflict ethos. Davey describes four pillars to help us get better at making conflict a highly valued process: 1. Mind-set for constructive conflict. 2. Forum for conflict. 3. The right words. 4. Embracing Feedback.

Character Moves:

  1. Assess whether you have a mind-set that is open to and seeks out productive conflict. Be honest. Do you avoid conflict? When you do get into it, to what extent do things deteriorate and conclude with a disappointing outcome?
  2. Determine whether you openly model and provide real, safe room for constructive conflict. How do you do it? What framework guides you?
  3. Do you know what words or phrases open up constructive dialogue or tend to discourage it? If you can’t write down at least five words/phrases and the implications, you have a learning opportunity. Do you know how to ask “what if” questions?
  4. Determine whether you are a feedback master. If you haven’t practiced in front of a video camera, with side-by-side coaching, it’s hard to get there.

P.S. check out Davey’s Productive Conflict Health Check (pg. 212 of her book)

Productive conflict in The Triangle,