“It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” – Mark Twain’s novel Pudd’nhead Wilson.
Horse races and healthy companies, actually. That’s according to The Table Group, the management consulting group founded by leadership guru and author Patrick Lencioni, who contends that organizational health results from internal conflict (among other things).
We know what you’re thinking: If conflict equals health, then we’re the Bionic Woman of companies. But, alas, it’s not the ferocity or frequency of disagreements that matters. It’s the type of conflict that counts.
Healthy divergence exhibits two telltale traits: It emerges from a climate of trust and it is reinforced from the top.
First and foremost, a good leader will recognize when his or her company is wrought with artificial harmony. Are people holding back ideas or criticisms due to fear? Are they nodding yes during the meeting, then back-channeling to vent frustrations and concerns after the fact? Are they more concerned with job security than innovation? If so, then your organization needs a trust adjustment.
“Consensus is a four-letter word,” said Brian Jones and Rick Packer of The Table Group at the Build/Live event in Atlanta last week. “Disagreeing with you is a sign that I trust you. And a good leader is one who creates a culture where everyone trust the best idea will win; not the best person.”
Trust is the basic building block, say Jones and Packer. The reinforcing beams come from the CEO, who must stay vigilant on the quest toward healthy internal conflict. How, you ask?
- Establish this simple meeting norm: Silence = disagreement. If a team member is silent, call him out to air his concerns right then and there.
- Question the idea; don’t criticize the person. Keep conflict from getting personal.
- Don’t leave the meeting without a unified pact to work together toward a goal. Not everyone will agree on the goal, but they all must agree to work toward it wholeheartedly.
- If someone comes knocking to air a grievance after the meeting, refuse to engage in back channeling. Shut down passive-aggressive tendencies but be certain to address valid concerns with the whole group out in the open.
|Read Patrick Lencioni's book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business for more on competitive advantages that matter.|
Learn more from The Table Group at an upcoming Build/Live event. in L.A., S.F. or Boston.