2 Ways to Resolve Conflict on Your Leadership Team
By: Peter Cohan
Even the most brilliant and talented leaders can't do all the work themselves. For example, Bill Gates was great at developing software, but not as good at managing a sales force and holding people accountable. For that, he relied on his college friend, Steve Ballmer.
As your company grows, you'll need to add people with different skills to your management team. Sadly, that does not guarantee they will make your company perform more effectively. For example, if your team members fight too hard for resources to make their own areas better off to the detriment of the others, the conflict can cause your company to miss its goals.
Teams fall short due to lack of results and problems in relationships. According to Harvard Business Review, results are inadequate because decisions are not innovative, they cost too much, and take too long to implement. Relationships falter because team members do not trust each other and they're not committed enough to your company. Their mindset drives their behavior, which in turn drives their results.
If your management team is dysfunctional, what should you do? The short answer is change your team's mindset. However, making that change is easier said than done. HBR suggests the key to aligning your team's mindset is to answer three questions:
- Where is the company falling short on its goals?
- What behavior by members of the executive team is causing the lag in results and relationships?
- What team member mindsets are driving the performance-diminishing behavior?
Inspire your team to be open to other points of view.
If your team is not performing, there's a good chance that some members of the team think their view is the only one that's valid, which leads them to ignore diverging views.
To break through that dysfunctional mindset, task everyone on the team to focus on learning from each other as they pursue your company's goals.
Your first step is to focus on the right set of core values, such as curiosity and transparency, and engage your team in a challenging conversation. More specifically, ask questions to encourage your team to share what they think is blocking performance and holding the company back.
For example, you could start the conversation by giving the team examples of consequences when there isn't enough accountability. Then ask whether the team sees things differently or agrees. Through this discussion, the entire team could forge a common view of what accountability means at your company.
Criticize team members in public, but do it constructively.
Another admittedly painful, yet effective way to resolve conflict on your team is to criticize a team member in public. This approach defies conventional wisdom, which is to praise people in public and criticize them in private so they can save face.
But such private criticism can cause more problems than it solves, if the one being criticized is just part of the team-wide problem. That's because in private, you might develop a solution that causes more disruption when it is introduced to the entire team.
If you're serious about creating an excellent team, everyone must be accountable to each other because they must work together. So, delivering constructive and critical feedback to a team member, in front of the entire team, actually helps the team develop a solution that works for everyone, as HBR points out.
At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable engaging in high-stakes conversations with team members in a way that will help everyone learn and grow--without being defensive. In that way, you can create shared team goals and inspire the willingness to work together to achieve them.