Growth Insights for CEOs

Staying "Uncomfortable" with Conflict

Posted by The Chief Outsider



Guest Blogger - Brian Jones, Patrick Lencioni's Table Group Consulting  jones                       The Best Teams Embrace Discomfort Recently I was asked by a CEO during a meeting with her team, "How long will it take for us to become comfortable with conflict?" I suspected that what she was asking was: "How long until we start disagreeing with each other without thinking about it too much in advance?" But her question (and I hope my response) led to a great discussion, for the truth is, we should never become too comfortable with conflict. It should always stay a bit uncomfortable. Here's why and how, but first, a reminder that we define conflict as "passionate debate between trusting team members in pursuit of the best idea. Conflict without trust is politics."

  • If you're not uncomfortable, you're probably not probing deeply enough into the issues facing the team and the organization. One of the traits of dysfunctional teams is the presence of artificial harmony. Lots of artificial harmony in your meetings is comfortable in the moment, but this comfort comes at a price: less-than-the-best decisions made because the most important issues are not on the table. How deeply are you probing? Are you getting the real story from the front lines of your business?
  • If you're not uncomfortable, and the most important issues are not being discussed, there will be "meetings after the meeting." Team members will tend to discuss the most important issues with one another after the meeting instead of bringing up issues during the meeting. And these "back channels" are destructive to the health of the business. If these are closed, and there is nowhere else to take important issues, they will have to come out in your meetings. It will get uncomfortable, and your business, staff, and customers will thank you for being willing to wrestle with difficult topics. Are you leaving your meetings feeling like you had an intense discussion?
  • If you're not uncomfortable, the immediate danger is complacency. There's a great quote that says comfort breeds complacency, and complacency breeds failure. Complacent teams and organizations are on a quick slope to self-destruction. Have you and your team become too comfortable?

Homework: After every team meeting, ask yourself (and better yet, ask your team):

  1. Did anyone hold back?
  2. Were any of our most important issues not discussed?
  3. Did the meeting stay too "comfortable"?

Webinar Offer

I also wanted to make all Chief Outsiders followers aware of our upcoming Webinar Series.  Pat Lencioni and Jeff Gibson will be hosting the first session where we will focus on exploring and applying Pat's foundational model, outlined in "The Advantage."  I hope you'll be able to join us for it, as it will be a great conversation. From there, plan to join us for the subsequent webinars as we dive deeper into the content. It's always great to have friends of The Table Group join us for these. To learn more and register for these upcoming webinars, click here »

By Brian Jones
Principal Consultant
Table Group Consulting       brian.jones@tablegroupconsulting.com     850-712-7828

Topics: Leadership, Alignment, Executive Staffing