Conflict comes in two forms: good and bad. Good conflict is disagreement and debate and a hard look at ideas and solutions. Good conflict results in even better ideas and solutions. Bad conflict is name calling, and personal attacks, and disengagement. Bad conflict results in team dysfunction. The most common cause of bad conflict is communication.
We each have our own expectations of how we want others to communicate with us. Maybe you like a friendly, open approach or perhaps you prefer a more measured style. Time to discuss alternatives might be important to you and you are almost offended by an aggressive, “just the facts” style. Conflict develops when people approach each other with conflicting styles.
That conflict can appear as anger and inappropriate words and can result in complete communication breakdown. When communication stops, conflict begins.
Of course it’s easy to say that the team’s leader must be aware of this common source of conflict and work to prevent it. But how?
The first step is to understand how you like to communicate. Are you a “get to the point” type person or do you prefer a more informal discussion? Do you want as much information as possible up front, or do you prefer others just stick to the basics and let you go from there? Once you realize your own style, it is easier to recognize when others are violating that expectation. Instead of getting frustrated, you can adapt. You might say, “Please just give me the bottom line,” or “I’d like to discuss this more to ensure I understand what you’re saying.”
This approach allows you to help others better communicate with you. Now that you understand your own style and how to help others help you, how do you help them?
Now that you’re aware of how communication conflicts can start, you’re more likely to recognize them in your team. Step in and gently point out where communication is breaking down. Help team members understand what you see and show them how to adapt. Use your own experience as an illustration.
As team members learn each other’s expectations and communication style, bad conflict will decrease, good conflict will increase, and your team will become stronger and more effective.
The Daedalus Group has a very effective tool to help you and your team members understand how to adapt to different styles and become a higher functioning team. For more information go to https://www.dleadershipgroup.com/leading-and-building-teams.