When I get with a team the first thing I do is watch for conflict. When I pose a question I observe who speaks, who glances at who and what isn't being said. This gives me a real insight into how healthy the team is. Now if I was to ask the team how effective are they at conflict, the answer is generally good, "We don't really disagree or have arguments".
Now that to me is a sign of an unhealthy team with very little trust. When artificial harmony exists then there is something missing in the team and that leads to bad decision making and poor results.
The two norms of decision making
I tend to see two models being played out in a business. The first is the autocratic or top down approach. The leader may pose a question and then gives their idea or decision. They may open it up for debate, but only head nodders speak up because they know the decision has already been made. Even if it's the wrong one.
Then you get the participative style where everyone gets a say. This has it's merits as everyone has an opinion and it increases employee engagement when people feel heard. But is their opinion based on thoughts or facts and expertise. Seriously, I can be asked a question and I could probably give you a fairly high level and convincing answer. That doesn't mean I am right and should be considered.
The sweet spot is when the question is posed at the right people who have knowledge, experience or expertise. If you can pose a question to 3-5 believable and knowledgeable people, you can get to the truth pretty quickly and efficiently. The ideas and thoughts will probably spur on other ideas which are challenged, tested and kicked around. Then, when the leader feels they have enough information to make an informed decisions, well they make it.
The problem with conflict is that we are told not to do it. We think that disagreeing with authority is career limiting. We fear rejection and breaking the relationship. Nobody wants to work in mean spirited teams where personal attacks are common. So we are trained to not challenge or disagree.
But if you choose healthy conflict then you create a rewarding, high energy, highly efficient and results driven team. Choosing conflict only has benefits and strengthens relationships.
Changing the culture and behaviours needs support and that's exactly what 3WH does. Using a variety of tools we can help your team to identify their relationship with conflict and then unlearn old habits and form new ones. You may choose a group coaching environment, the productive conflict assessment and workshop or even choose the powerful 5 behaviours of a cohesive team programme.
Moving from artificial harmony to healthy conflict is rewarding, but needs some facilitation. Once you invest, you will see how fun work can be.