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Jan Copley
Certified Practice Advisor
Atticus, Inc.

530 South Lake Avenue, Suite 250
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 696-3145
(626) 421-6747 (fax)

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It’s a Good Thing if Your Team Disagrees with You

August 31, 2011

Filed under: Team Meetings — @ 1:27 pm

I recently attended a team meeting. The discussion grew heated and passionate — what diplomats call “open and frank” — at times.

Why arguing is a sign of health. The conflict at the team meeting was good. According to Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Josscy-Bass 2002), one symptom of a team that doesn’t work is the fear of conflict. If your team members fear conflict, your team meetings will be boring and you won’t accomplish much. Your team members won’t be willing to volunteer their own ideas.

What you can lose. Rather, team members will go along with whatever you, the boss, propose, but they won’t be invested in the ultimate decision. They’ll simply wait for your direction and implement it like robots. Your team members will be sullen and resentful. Their great ideas won’t see the light of day. The growth of your business will be negatively affected.

What you may gain. On the other hand, if your team members are willing to hash things out, they are much more likely to buy in to whatever the ultimate resolution may be. At the meeting I attended, I thought the conflict was a tremendous breakthrough for the team involved, because it was the first time people were truly willing to engage, to be vulnerable, and to hold each other accountable. The team had difficult conversations that some team members felt were long overdue. The result was a flowering of trust and creativity.

You have to have rules of engagement. Of course, to effectively disagree, your team must have some ground rules for expressing opinions (and team members must abide by the rules). Guidelines for team meetings must be designed so team members feel safe. Basic rules include:

  • No personal attacks
  • No dismissive or belittling comments
  • Confidentiality

Are your team meetings productive? Try creating a feeling of safety, and then stand back for the tremendous flow of creativity you will see!

Please let me know how this helps you.