Last week I wrote about the first dysfunction, Absence of Trust, in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. This week, I am reviewing the second dysfunction, Fear of Conflict.
Just as it sounds, this dysfunction addresses the all-too-familiar characteristic of teams in which people are purposely avoiding debate. Once a team has built up trust, it is important for teams to engage in conflict, or debate. The book states: “Every great movie has conflict. Without it, we just don’t care what happens to the characters.”
Individuals should keep the above quote in mind before heading into their next team meeting. At a past employer we had monthly “Admin Meetings”. These meetings were first established to bring everyone at the administration level together to prepare a five-year strategic plan. However, these meetings quickly turned into each director simply giving a report on what each department had accomplished in past years. When it finally came time to discuss future plans, decisions were already made by the organization’s leadership. On the rare occasion someone brought up a new idea, leadership would table the discussion and reprimand the individual later.
Looking back, this team was highly dysfunctional because of the Fear of Conflict. Directors were scared to speak up and engage in debate. And leadership encouraged the apathy by not asking questions to elicit ideas. Because there was not conflict, best thinking was never present and we did not get the best possible results from the meetings.
Whether you lead a team or are a member of a team, you can overcome the Fear of Conflict dysfunction. Next time you head into a meeting, come ready to engage in conflict! Bring critical items to discuss, ask questions, and challenge ideas. You will find your meetings more interesting and beneficial. Allowing productive debate creates teams that resolve issues more quickly and can move on from heated debates with no damage to come together to make the best possible decision. This leads to the best possible results!