There’s been a lot of work done on what makes an effective team and what are the behaviors that you need to have a cohesive team. The work that I like the best is Patrick Lencioni’s work on The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.
Very briefly, his motto is: Cohesive teams have vulnerability-based trust – the building block – trust with one another, engage in great conflict – very robust conflict – in which all the issues are talked about, make commitments to one another, and because they make great commitments to one another, the team is willing to hold each other accountable, and when they hold each other accountable, they get great team results.
So it’s Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and then that drives Results.
In this blog, I want to talk about Conflict. Probably the most sensitive one of those five. The rest of them sort of speak for themselves.
There’s a conflict continuum. On one end it’s nice-nice. Everyone says nice things to one another. Nobody really gets to the heart of the matter. On the other end, is destructive conflict. People make things personal. They either raise their voice or cross some sort of line where they take productive conflict and make it unproductive. So you have a continuum. Nice-nice, everybody talks to each other in what I say sickeningly sweet tones and doesn’t really talk about anything or bring anything up and on the far end is harsh words all the time.
Patrick’s theory is that you need to walk up to the line that separates destructive conflict from productive conflict. And he’s absolutely right. You can’t do everything out in the quadrant where everything’s nice-nice and you should not, ideally, cross the line into unproductive conflict. Although, great teams will walk up to that line and sometimes, once in a blue moon, cross over it. That’s the goal, to have conflict that you walk up to that line, but you don’t go over it or if you do go over it, you go over just slightly. Robust conflict builds a great team and it’s based on vulnerability-based trust.