Conflict can actually be healthy for a team.Believe it or not, there’s a healthy kind of conflict that can help teams strengthen, grow and be more productive than ever. *

I grew up as one of five children in a loud, expressive Cuban-American family. If you were a fly on the wall in our house on most any given day, you would have witnessed one or all of us being passionate, headstrong, opinionated, animated, emotional … and did I say loud? We loved each other immensely – and still do to this day, of course – but wow, we’ve had some knock-down, drag-out disagreements over the years.

Conflict – both the good and the bad kind – was a daily affair in my world, and so I learned at a very early age some serious negotiation skills and relationship strategies, many of which continue to be very helpful today. But unfortunately, unhealthy conflict, or even the absence of conflict, can be poison … for you, for your friends and family, and for your professional colleagues or business teams. But the good kind? The healthy, awesome conflict that makes amazing things happen? Now that’s what I’m talking about.

What happens without conflict?

I’ve been sharing the five key behaviors that are required for effective teamwork, according to organizational health expert Patrick Lencioni. The first one is trust, which must be present within a team before even thinking about having healthy conflict.

Why is conflict healthy? Well, let’s start with what happens when a team goes in the opposite direction and actually fears it. According to Lencioni, teams that are afraid of conflict:

  • Have boring meetings
  • Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive
  • Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success
  • Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
  • Waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management

Many of us either instinctively avoid conflict at work, or we have been taught to “play nice,” and avoid “making waves.” But when we choose this path, we actually miss out on the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team. In reality, all lasting relationships require productive conflict in order to grow.

What happens with good conflict?

So what happens when teams learn to trust each other from a place of vulnerability and actually embrace healthy conflict? What once might have been an anxiety-inducing interaction becomes a positive way to find the best possible solutions or answers. When teams experience productive conflict around ideas or concepts, the potential to create, innovate and perform increases (and you get faster at it, too).

As Lencioni explains, a team that engages in healthy conflict minimizes politics and puts critical topics on the table for discussion. It also extracts the ideas of all members, helping to solve real problems quickly.

How do you get there?

As I mentioned before, you and your team will be able to practice healthy conflict only after you’ve learned to trust each other from a position of vulnerability. That’s where I come in. I am a trained, independent partner of the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive TeamTM approach – an assessment based learning experience for intact teams. Powered by the Everything DiSC® model, it helps members balance their individual workplace styles with an appreciation of those of other members.

If you’d like to find out more about how these five behaviors can help you and your business operate on a higher (and more successful level), contact me and I’ll be happy to tell you more about it. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the next installment in this series, in which I’ll explore the next behavior on the model: commitment.


*Editor’s note: This is the second  in a series about team building, based on the concepts presented in Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and his model, Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.

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