Tip 1.4 The team is engaged in constructive debates and all members feel comfortable participating.

Are your meetings boring? How would you like to have these outcomes instead?

  • Have lively, interesting meetings
  • Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
  • Solve real problems quickly
  • Minimize politics
  • Put critical topics on the table for discussion

Engage in healthy debate!

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni emphasizes that all great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.

Healthy constructive debates are the answer to produce the best possible solution to issues in the shortest period of time. Ironically, teams that avoid conflict often do so in order to avoid hurting team members’ feelings, and then end up encouraging dangerous tension. When team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over issues.

One of the most difficult challenges that a leader faces in promoting healthy conflict is the desire to protect members from harm. This leads to premature interruption of dis­agreements, and prevents team members from developing coping skills for dealing with conflict themselves. Our advice to leaders is to have one rule: never make it personal. Come back to a place of safety so people will speak up and not shut down. One reprimand from the CEO can shut down a team’s innovation and desire to speak up. Healthy conflict is actually a time saver. Contrary to the notion that teams waste time and energy arguing; those that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without res­olution.

What conversation is your team avoiding? The first step is ac­knowledging that conflict is productive, and that many teams have a tendency to avoid it. In fact is important to “mine” for conflict in the spirit of making things better as a result. Often the loudest or most senior leader prevails when people are averse to making waves.

Read more in Pat Lencioni’s the Five Dysfunctions of a Team or ask me about The Five Cohesive Behaviors of a Team Assessment to check out the health of your team.