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How can you move beyond team conflict at work?

The amount of work being done by teams is ever increasing as our global community shrinks...
How can you move beyond team conflict at work?

How can you move beyond team conflict at work?




Lael Good

Director of Consulting Services




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The amount of work being done by teams is ever increasing as our global community shrinks—but teams face many obstacles that can keep them from performing at their best.

For example, senior leaders in many organisations assume that bringing together experts or star performers will automatically create a high performance team due to everyone’s combined transferable skills. That’s not necessarily true. A team can perform at a high level only when its members have a clear purpose and know how to work together to accomplish it.

In our new Team Leadership program, we teach that teams generally go through four different stages of development beginning with Orientation, then to Dissatisfaction, Integration, and Production. Some teams, however, begin at the Dissatisfaction stage if some members have been mandated to join the team, have preexisting difficult relationships with others, or simply are not interested. The stage will change depending on how clear members are on their purpose and what specific goals or projects they are tackling. With practice, team members learn how to move through the Orientation and Dissatisfaction stages to the Integration and Production stages, where both productivity and morale increase.

One of the ways team leaders can help this process along is to respond to the needs of the team by becoming skilled at diagnosing the team’s current development stage. It's not a “one size fits all.” As the team continues to work together over time it will move through the different stages of development. When that happens, the team leader needs to shift focus and provide specific directive and supportive behaviors for each stage. For example: At the Orientation stage, the team needs clarity and alignment. At the Dissatisfaction stage, the team needs to be able to communicate with candor and curiosity. At the Integration stage, the leader needs to build team cohesiveness. And at the Production stage, the team leader needs to sustain high performance through shared leadership.

 

Depending on the team’s stage of development, the team leader can take different strategic actions to help facilitate the team’s progress. In the first stage, Orientation, the leader ensures everyone is clear about the team’s purpose. The leader also has team members share their expectations and what teammates can expect from them. The leader sets the tone for the environment and provides structure for developing the team charter and also establishes initial boundaries.

In the often-challenging Dissatisfaction stage, the leader must help the team move through the inevitable conflict that always occurs when people are brought together to solve a common problem. If left to their own devices, people in work teams typically respond to conflict with either an overly aggressive fight response or an overly passive flight or freeze response. Our Team Leadership program trains people to stay in that moment of tension through the right mix of candor and curiosity. Candor encourages team members to share what needs to be said; Curiosity helps them keep an open mind and avoid jumping to judgment. Finding the right mix of these two elements requires awareness and practice—but it is critical when the team begins to experience conflict. Keeping both in balance allows the team to discover the truth in the conflict, the workarounds that might be necessary, and the combined thinking that will help everyone move forward together.

In the Integration stage, it is the leader’s job to create an environment of psychological safety where team members feel free to communicate, collaborate, and help each other do their best work. This includes trusting and supporting one another as well as holding each other accountable for getting the work done.

Finally, in the Production stage, team leaders celebrate team success through individual recognition and a review of lessons learned. A challenge for some team leaders at this stage is to encourage creativity in team members as they also relinquish some of their leadership responsibilities through delegation. The team is not all about the leader. If team members perceive they have a self-focused leader, that will become the biggest obstacle to ever becoming a high performance team.

A team leader must work with the mindset of serving the team. The leader must know when to direct, when to support, when to help solve problems, and when to back away and let the team make decisions. These are skills team leaders can learn. The leader’s focus on both people and results will allow the team and the organisation to thrive far beyond what any single individual would be able to do on their own.

 

The amount of work being done by teams is ever increasing as our global community shrinks—but teams face many obstacles that can keep them from performing at their best.

For example, senior leaders in many organisations assume that bringing together experts or star performers will automatically create a high performance team due to everyone’s combined transferable skills. That’s not necessarily true. A team can perform at a high level only when its members have a clear purpose and know how to work together to accomplish it.

In our new Team Leadership program, we teach that teams generally go through four different stages of development beginning with Orientation, then to Dissatisfaction, Integration, and Production. Some teams, however, begin at the Dissatisfaction stage if some members have been mandated to join the team, have preexisting difficult relationships with others, or simply are not interested. The stage will change depending on how clear members are on their purpose and what specific goals or projects they are tackling. With practice, team members learn how to move through the Orientation and Dissatisfaction stages to the Integration and Production stages, where both productivity and morale increase.

One of the ways team leaders can help this process along is to respond to the needs of the team by becoming skilled at diagnosing the team’s current development stage. It's not a “one size fits all.” As the team continues to work together over time it will move through the different stages of development. When that happens, the team leader needs to shift focus and provide specific directive and supportive behaviors for each stage. For example: At the Orientation stage, the team needs clarity and alignment. At the Dissatisfaction stage, the team needs to be able to communicate with candor and curiosity. At the Integration stage, the leader needs to build team cohesiveness. And at the Production stage, the team leader needs to sustain high performance through shared leadership.

 

 

Depending on the team’s stage of development, the team leader can take different strategic actions to help facilitate the team’s progress. In the first stage, Orientation, the leader ensures everyone is clear about the team’s purpose. The leader also has team members share their expectations and what teammates can expect from them. The leader sets the tone for the environment and provides structure for developing the team charter and also establishes initial boundaries.

In the often-challenging Dissatisfaction stage, the leader must help the team move through the inevitable conflict that always occurs when people are brought together to solve a common problem. If left to their own devices, people in work teams typically respond to conflict with either an overly aggressive fight response or an overly passive flight or freeze response. Our Team Leadership program trains people to stay in that moment of tension through the right mix of candor and curiosity. Candor encourages team members to share what needs to be said; Curiosity helps them keep an open mind and avoid jumping to judgment. Finding the right mix of these two elements requires awareness and practice—but it is critical when the team begins to experience conflict. Keeping both in balance allows the team to discover the truth in the conflict, the workarounds that might be necessary, and the combined thinking that will help everyone move forward together.

In the Integration stage, it is the leader’s job to create an environment of psychological safety where team members feel free to communicate, collaborate, and help each other do their best work. This includes trusting and supporting one another as well as holding each other accountable for getting the work done.

Finally, in the Production stage, team leaders celebrate team success through individual recognition and a review of lessons learned. A challenge for some team leaders at this stage is to encourage creativity in team members as they also relinquish some of their leadership responsibilities through delegation. The team is not all about the leader. If team members perceive they have a self-focused leader, that will become the biggest obstacle to ever becoming a high performance team.

A team leader must work with the mindset of serving the team. The leader must know when to direct, when to support, when to help solve problems, and when to back away and let the team make decisions. These are skills team leaders can learn. The leader’s focus on both people and results will allow the team and the organisation to thrive far beyond what any single individual would be able to do on their own.


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