A great way to tell if you have a strong team is by examining the amount of regular, healthy conflicts that occur in meetings. Conflict is actually good. It’s natural and it can result in powerful ideas that save or make the company significant dollars. If you aren’t seeing healthy debate in your meetings, the dynamics of your team may be broken. This breakage may be causing “A” players to stop contributing.

The bad news is the problem might be you. Executive leaders destroy teamwork by encouraging conflict avoidance.

Some examples of how leaders destroy healthy conflict:

  • Stop being curious and don’t listen to people when issues are raised in meetings.
  • Be intimidating or threatening so subordinates have fear of reprisal if they speak up.
  • Be vocally judgmental towards people in the room when opinions differ.
  • Appear to only be interested in your own ideas.
  • Interrupt other team members before their idea may be completed.
  • Make personal attacks.

According to Pat Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunction of Team, “fear of conflict” is one of the five dysfunctions that are detrimental to great teamwork. As executive leaders we have to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks.

Healthy conflict saves time and leads to better decisions. The role of the executive coach is to practice restraint, and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

Have you encouraged or discouraged healthy debate on your team? How?

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about leadership development through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Business Coach, Business Coaching, Teamwork

About Howard M. Shore

Howard M. Shore is a Certified Gazelles Coach, Certified Public Accountant Certified Executive Coach, Certified Behavioral Analyst, Certified Values Analyst, and Certified Attributes Index Analyst. He has earned Bachelor and MBA degrees from Florida International University, and completed advanced executive programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.