Constructive Conflict: Your Most Important Change Management Tool

Conflict is a natural aspect of any change process, and well-managed constructive conflict will in fact accelerate and enhance success. Or, more to the point, unmanaged negative outcomes from conflict can create a speed bump that will slow the process to near-stop – or build up to a rocky landslide causing long-term damage in its wake.

As a leader, which side of conflict do you want to be on?

The leader who sees conflict as a useful tool rather than a negative thing to avoid at all costs, that helps increase employee engagement and the vibrant exchange of ideas that take your business on the innovation and growth path.

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So how do you start to create the kind of organizational dynamics that harness the power of constructive conflict?  Read on…

Use data-driven team assessment tools

It’s key to start by assessing where your team falls on the conflict continuum, and what a team with well-managed conflict looks like. We use our Resologics Innovation Estimator™ online tool with our clients to measure how their teams use conflict. We’ve created this unique (and easy to deploy) tool from a foundation of years of experience and research data, so you can compare the team to itself and other teams with some custom questions. And so that leadership is able to answer the question: Do you work well enough with conflict to get the job done?  

Read the book “The Other ‘F’ Word”

“The Other ‘F’ Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work,” by John Danner and Mark Coopersmith, shows how successful leaders and teams can use failure and conflict to re-engage employees, drive productivity, and spark growth within organizations. This practical read features a framework for how leaders can:

  • Reduce the fear of failure that stifles initiative, creativity, and engagement.
  • Harness failure as a catalyst to drive innovation.
  • Openly communicate and engage in productive conversations with their team about failure and conflict.

Foster a creative conflict culture in your team

Once you’re armed with information and assessment, you are ready to engage your team personally to foster a creative culture that encourages constructive conflict. Three keys here: Ask your team engaging questions (by the way, some of the questions from the Innovation Estimator™ survey could be helpful); invite feedback; and listen carefully.

Hold a team meeting, setting the expectation of an open and respectful conversation. Bring in a facilitator who is outside of your team to make sure everyone feels comfortable thinking and talking and speaking up, including the team leader. Here are some of the questions the facilitator can ask your team members:

  • What are the things we can do to eliminate the potential for negative conflict outcomes during this project?
  • What agreements can we put in place to make sure we all feel safe addressing conflict when it arises?
  • In order for this team to be successful or effective, what do we need to count on from each other?
  • What’s the one thing that would help make you more confident that our agreements will hold?

Leading by example is of course the best way to teach your team what respectful discourse and constructive conflict looks like. Conflict, when well managed, can breathe life and energy into workplace relationships that inspire more productivity, creativity and innovation.

If you’d like to talk more about building a high-performing team, please feel free to schedule a conversation with us here.