Home Best Practices “No organization can make good decisions without conflict.”

“No organization can make good decisions without conflict.”

“No organization can make good decisions without conflict.”

“If everyone is thinking alike, someone’s not thinking.”

We tend to veer away from conflict.  It can make us feel uncomfortable, or even downright shaken.  It can inspire anger, anxiety, hurt feelings, and a lot of other negative outcomes.  So we avoid it.  We try to play nice and hope everybody else does the same.  If we can’t say something nice, our mothers taught us, don’t say anything at all.

If we could create such a place . . . a place free of conflict . . . would you want to work there?  Probably not because it would also be a place free of passion, free of divergent points of view, and free of lively debate.  It would be pretty boring.  And it wouldn’t be an industry leader, it would be at the back of the pack.

The fact is, properly managed, conflict moves a business forward.  New ideas are vetted in the heat of debate.  Ideas that survive the heat give us confidence that we may actually be onto something here.  Ideas that wilt under a robust discussion probably don’t deserve to see the light of day.  It’s the rite of passage that separates the good ideas from the not-so-good.

So how do we manage conflict so that it’s a positive force and not a detrimental one?

It starts with the simple notion that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and we build that simple notion into our culture.  Mostly that means we have to make it “safe” for people to disagree or to take opposite points of view.  So we vigorously defend our own position, but we don’t assign unworthy motives to our opponent.  We assume that everyone is well-intentioned and honestly motivated.  When people know they can stand up and say what they believe without being castigated or impugned, guess what?  They will!

As part of any good decision-making process, we need to hear a variety of opinions.  We need healthy, robust debate that brings out divergent thoughts without getting personal.  If we manage that well, we get everyone’s best thinking, and when the smoke clears, we’re still friends, colleagues, and members of the same team.

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