Peak team and company performance depends on open dialogue and healthy conflict. Unfortunately, the dialogue within many teams and at many companies is often less than open and the conflict is anything but healthy.
There are many possible reasons for less-than-optimal interpersonal communications. For example, people may:
- Protect their turf rather than looking at the needs of the overall business
- Assume that conflict is always ugly, so they avoid it at all costs
- Be afraid of losing their jobs if they present an opposing opinion
- Take things personally rather than having an objective and professional perspective
- Have a vested interest in a particular point of view, such as preserving their role
- Avoid criticizing a colleague’s point of view for fear of disrupting the relationship
- Have had a bad experience with conflict and so respond defensively or fearfully when things get tense
It takes leadership courage to spearhead open dialogue and encourage healthy conflict. An effective leader is one who is willing to put tough matters on the table while simultaneously reassuring everyone at the table that open discussion is essential for the success of the business and that differing opinions are welcome. Such a leader will set the expectations for healthy conflict: that is, that people are encouraged to “arm wrestle” over critical business matters without fear of reprisal in order to discern what is best for the enterprise, but that personal attacks, threats, and the like will not be tolerated.
Open dialogue and healthy conflict take intentionality, mutual trust, and emotional intelligence. Once a culture of positive communication is established, a company is positioned for peak performance and is empowered to seize emerging opportunities in an agile and effective manner. Without question, the benefits of open dialogue and healthy conflict are worth the effort.
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