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What Your Team Needs is a Good Fight

[ Leadership & Team Development, Culture ]

Very few of us like to fight. It is uncomfortable, especially in a work setting, to see a fight break out in a meeting. As leaders, we strive to protect those under our charge from harm. Therefore, heated debate is almost taboo. When we discourage heated and passionate discussions, we deprive our team members of learning valuable conflict management skills. We also miss out on the opportunity to get to the real truth in a decision.

“All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow.”  Patrick Lencioni


In our firm, we have 4 equal partners. We’ve worked together for many years and have mutual respect and trust for each other. We also all value integrity. For a number of years, our meetings were almost conflict free. Every major decision was usually unanimous.

A few years ago we conducted a series of assessments on all the partners – Myers Briggs (MBTI), Strengthsfinder 2.0, and DISC. This gave us great insight into our unique makeup. But when we discovered the Kolbe A™ Index, we entered a new realm of understanding. We discovered how each of us uniquely solves problems. This new understanding allowed us to become much more passionate in our meetings.

We encourage and expect some conflict because we all want what is best for our firm and we want to tap into the strengths of each of our partners. We now have meetings that are more passionate and emotional. We make decisions that aren’t always unanimous, but we unanimously support the vote once made.

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni calls out fear of conflict as one of five common dysfunctions within teams. I have adopted Lencioni’s valuable information to provide some guidelines for achieving productive conflict.


5 Rules for Productive Conflict

1.  Know each other’s conative strengths.

It is critical that you understand how your teammates are wired to solve problems. This gives you the necessary insight and respect for how they approach problems. If you would like to take your Kolbe A™ Index, click here.

2.  Ensure you have developed trust for one other. 

Knowing each others’ strengths is the first step to developing trust. Each team member must trust that everyone’s intentions are good and feel comfortable challenging thought or direction.

3.  Stick to ideological conflict. 

Productive conflict is limited to concepts and ideas – not interpersonal politics. Avoid personality-focused or mean-spirited attacks.

4.  Allow and expect passion, emotion, and frustration. 

As a leader, you may need to encourage passionate debate in the decision process. If this is new to your team, then take time when it first occurs to point it out, praise the person that expressed it, and encourage the rest of the team to engage appropriately.

5.  Once a decision is made, everyone should support it. 

Great teams understand that everyone on the team must move forward in a unified front to implement decisions made – regardless of individual votes, for or against.

As a leader, you want your team to grow and become as effective as possible. Many leaders simply avoid conflict at all costs. Do you have the strength and the courage to push your team to be uncomfortable at times in order to drive success? If you’ve struggled to find effective ways to increase efficiency and productivity within your team, The Dental CFO can help! Our Practice Management Consulting services help identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.


What do you need to do today to create and encourage productive conflict within your team?

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