“Is your team in conflict?” would be better stated, “Are you creating an environment of healthy debates?”
So often we find companies are more concerned with keeping their team in harmony than challenging one another’s decisions. It sounds right to not have people in disagreement, and it seems like the perfect situation to have constant harmony in the workplace. Isn’t that what we work towards, having a compatible team? We hire different personalities to balance out our strengths and weaknesses, but we don’t always take the time to listen to all perspectives or create an environment where people feel valued and heard.
As Dee W. Hock of Fast Company says, “Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength and idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.” The point is that we need to see different perspectives to be successful.
Then there are the companies who hire right, but don’t know how to maximize their resources by allowing discord. Why work so hard to create a diverse team if you are not allowing them to voice their individual views? Leaders can break this pattern, and encourage an environment of healthy debate by understanding and applying the following:
- First, know your people. You should have a good idea of how each member of your team makes decisions. You should know each member’s motivation and what drives them to succeed. The better you know your people, the more effectively you can manage the debate.
- Second, develop trust amongst your team. People will not expose themselves if they do not feel they can trust those around them. The best way to gain trust in any situation is to start by exposing vulnerabilities, to encourage team members to let down their guard. This is the most important action a leader can take, but they must lead by example and demonstrate their own vulnerability first. This takes time and consistency to establish, and once it is in place teammates must be given a safe place to reveal their true opinion and feel heard.
- Third, invest in a tool that helps team members understand one another. A personality profile like Myers-Briggs, DISC, or Worktraits™ is an excellent exercise to help with the process of understanding personalities and temperaments. Knowing these differences helps to honor individual uniqueness rather than allowing differences to be a source of irritation. It is not only important for you to know your people, but for your people to know one another.
- Finally, be a leader who is not afraid to “put it out there.” This process requires courage to look at an issue with a genuine desire to work through it. Willingness to hear everyone’s opinion and proof that the opinion is truly heard are vital. Leaders must demonstrate patience, and not take things personally. It’s not always about getting everyone to agree—the process of agreeing to disagree can even be a solution. It’s about hearing all perspectives.
Most people aren’t willing to challenge a thought process because they don’t have all the answers. However, creating a safe environment for healthy debate can encourage your team to express their opinions. By engaging in productive conflict and revealing individual perspectives and opinions, a team can increase a company’s capabilities.
Take the time to know your people, encourage your team members to share their vulnerabilities, invite them to build a strong level of trust with one another, and invest in a resource that provides further understanding of personality differences. Ultimately, allowing your team to feel heard by engaging in healthy debate will inspire a united front of individuals who are determined to see their group succeed. Their determination to collaborate for the greater good will sustain accountability and become your most powerful source of profitability.