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Do you avoid conflict?

You might be surprised by how many leaders I talk with who believe that all conflict’s bad, and that avoiding it helps create a harmonious workplace. Guess what? Those leaders are never the most successful ones, largely due to their feelings about conflict.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating conflict just for the sake of conflict, and I also know there’s a huge difference between constructive and destructive conflict. What I’m saying is that if the constructive conflict is courted in a healthy manner, it can improve your leadership skills and make your team stronger as a whole. Here’s why:

It Helps You Keep an Open Mind

If you employ a whole team of ‘yes men’ who never contradict you or your managers, you’re in danger of sliding into ‘groupthink.’ When this occurs, your vision narrows and you become less able to think outside of the box for solutions that don’t come from the traditional channels.

When you encourage constructive conflict, you’re inviting your entire team to weigh in on problems or projects without fear of being shut down or reprimanded. Not only does this boost their confidence, but it also prevents you from becoming narrow-minded and unimaginative.

It Builds Trust

Your employees need to build trust with you by showing up to work on time, being honest, and completing their tasks in the time allotted to them.

On the other side of the coin, you also need to earn the trust of your employees by showing them you value their opinions and will allow them to use their talents to enhance your team.

When you court positive conflict, you’re sending a very clear message that you trust your team to contribute ideas and strategies that can lead to greater successes. This creates a strong corporate culture and allows everyone to have a chance to shine.

It Improves Communication

It’s pretty difficult to have open communication within a team if conflict or disagreements aren’t tolerated. Though effective communication should be a positive experience, you should also be aware that it can lead to some uncomfortable situations.

This doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Instead, you need to set an example for your team that disagreements can lead to breakthroughs and greater cohesiveness if they’re handled correctly.

If you find that conflict almost always leads to hurt feelings or resentment in your office, you might find it helpful to work with a coach who can help you guide your team in learning to disagree constructively by focusing on the issue and not the person.

It Enhances Innovation

When President Abraham Lincoln was elected, he made the revolutionary decision to fill his cabinet, not with his supporters, but with those who were the most opposed to his election. Why? Because he knew that conflict led to growth and innovation.

When you get two people together who think completely differently, amazing things can happen. Of course, huge disagreements and misunderstandings can also happen because their thought processes are so different.

This is where differentiating between ‘destructive conflict’ (where one or both parties feel ignored, disrespected, or belittled) and constructive conflict, is so important. When handled correctly, two people who disagree about a problem, a product, or an event can come together to brainstorm some innovative ideas that combine both of their ideas.

To be an effective leader, you must have a positive perspective on conflict. When you demonstrate to your team that you don’t shy away from disagreements and that constructive conflict can lead to some very positive results, you’re embodying a mindset that’ll serve all of you well as you pursue a more cohesive and innovative team.

 

Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies, Trish Cody has coached and consulted with senior level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Practitioner, Trish works with senior level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness and create more trust, loyalty, and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at trish@trishcody.com.

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