Understandably most of us would rather avoid conflict with colleagues. Our experience confirms that it’s rare that conflict within teams leads to a positive outcome.
However, talk to any high performing team and they will tell you that they don’t fear conflict, in fact they relish the opportunity to enter the zone of uncomfortable debate.
These mature teams know that sometimes it’s necessary to wrestle with an issue in order to make progress, to reach true agreement. The team agree that they can’t achieve their goals within an environment of procrastination and mixed messages. To achieve clarity it’s sometimes necessary to challenge, debate and even disagree.
If you are part of a team that could benefit from stepping into the ZOUD (zone of uncomfortable debate) then here are some considerations to bear in mind:
- Are all team members emotionally able to cope with vigorous challenge?
- Is there a willingness to ask tough questions?
- Is the debating process regarded positively?
- Are all team members striving for the same goal?
- Is the ideal outcome worth the pain to get there?
And a few tips on managing these meetings:
- At the outset state that ‘we will debate with many voices but govern with one’
- Don’t pre-judge, minds like parachutes work better when they are open
- Rotate the role of devil’s advocate
- Maintain a business (not personal) perspective
- Use questions in preference to statements or opinions
- Specify that when the meeting closes the discussion ends
“In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy.”