Conflict Is Healthy
Conflict Is Healthy
By Marshall Krupp, Professional EOS Implementer
In collaboration with Ashley Berecz, Executive Assistant
Conflict is a natural part of life! The word alone can cause people to pause, as conflict is normally associated as a negative aspect. But, what if it isn’t negative? If there wasn’t any conflict, how would we as people, as business owners, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, and as executives move forward? How would new opportunities unfold or be exposed? For example, the current CEO of Bumble Whitney Wolfe Herd who was recently named as the youngest CEO to take her company public in the United States did not have any easy road free of conflict. Do you think she views the success of Bumble as a negative? No, I would assume not. Was it uncomfortable? I would suspect that at times it was.
While you can not escape conflict, you can surely embrace it. Putting your head in the sand instead of facing conflict head on will not treat you well. As a leader, you potentially will be faced with conflicts on a daily basis and it is part of your job to recognize the conflict, understand the conflict, and then hopefully bring about a swift solution. When conflict is not managed and resolved within a company, morale will lower, you will see a decrease in productivity, and you may even lose some good people because of it. And it will be boring!
Part of the resistance to conflict comes from the stories that we tell ourselves that lead to self-limiting beliefs. Throughout our lives we are confronted with situations that reinforce our behaviors to “protect” ourselves or to keep us “safe”. From our early days of childhood, we take messages from our experiences, our education, our mentors, our culture, and from other parts of our lives. These messages guide us to make decisions. In our adulthood we revisit these messages and show up in ways that we believe will serve us best, without recognizing that these behaviors no longer work in adulthood and actually place limitations on us or prevent us from the growth of the experience.
Our message to conflict is to resist because we have experienced the pain of it as children. Those messages show up as “fears”. We also call these “core self-limiting beliefs”. They are learned as we are not born with these fears. It has been said that there are only two fears that we are born with… the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear has been learned but this does not make them less real or easier to deal with.
We often find that the biggest obstacle towards forward progress in stepping into conflict is not outside of us, but inside of us. These show up as one or more of four fatal fears. These four fears will drive a grasping towards something that will never fill us. For example, If I am looking for completion outside of myself, I will never scratch my itch. I need to learn to be able to sit with my fear and anxiety and accept it and accept that I am human and imperfect.
These four fatal fears are:
- Fear of Failure – “I Need Success”
- Fear of Rejection – “I Need Acceptance”
- Fear of Emotional Discomfort – “I Need Emotional Comfort”
- Fear of Being Wrong – “I Need to Be Right”
Each of the fears will never go away. They will always be there, but we can accept them and not allow them to direct our actions and words, but rather use them to create opportunities and growth. More importantly, the best way to overcome those fears is to face them head-on and proactively step through them. By challenging these fears in our quest to overcome our resistance to conflict, we can enter and overcome the damager zone.
In Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” he describes the five dysfunctions by using a pyramid to show the various levels of a team’s functionality:
- Absence of Trust
- Fear of Conflict
- Lack of Commitment
- Avoidance of Accountability
- Inattention to Results
While Lencioni builds the pyramid on the foundation of “trust”, he reinforces that the next level of growth of a team is in addressing the fear of conflict. Lencioni states that a “fear of conflict” is the second dysfunction that prevents teams from reaching their true potential. This “fear” is an unwillingness to engage in a productive, unfiltered debate that ultimately leads to discomfort, stress, and growth. Productive conflict is the equivalent of a strenuous workout for the team… it builds strength and resilience and leads to success.
“Fear of Conflict -Teams that trust each other are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions that are key to the organization’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another, all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth, and making great decisions.” – Patrick Lencioni
He goes on to state that vulnerability-based trust is an absolute requirement for productive conflict. Productive conflict is not about “winning an argument”, but the “humble pursuit of truth.”
It is uncomfortable, but that shouldn’t prevent it from occurring.
How does conflict occur? Conflict is a common occurrence and it does not manifest out of thin air. It is prevalent in the workplace and in business all the time. By some accounts, about 85 percent of all U.S. employees regularly experience some workplace conflict (mostly unhealthy conflict) and it costs small-business owners about three hours of lost work time a week. Consider this. Two employees in conflict with each other for 52 weeks per year and at an hourly rate of $50.00 per hour can cost a company in excess of $15,000 in time if it unfolds in an unhealth manner. However, healthy conflict is good and has value. We however resist conflict whether healthy or unhealthy.
The essential components of conflict are:
- Two or more people involved
- Difference in ideas, opinions, or process
- One side seeing their way as the only way to successfully complete the objective
Bernie Mayer Ph.D., Professor of Dispute Resolution stated that, “Unless we can empower people to deal with problems that arise along the way, to face difficulties, to recognize and adjust when strategies are not working or are impossible to implement, to help those who are struggling, to handle the inevitable tensions and conflicts that challenging work engenders, and to maintain a positive attitude about that work, we cannot build a truly effective team, unit or organization.”
When handled appropriately, conflict provides a multitude of positives for not just yourself but everyone in your organization. Some benefits include:
- Opening eyes to new ideas
- Teaching flexibility
- Promoting honest communication and listening skills
- Setting boundaries and limits
- Providing emotional control
- Elevating the value of people
- Nurturing confidence
As a professional EOS Implementer and Executive Coach, I regularly facilitate situations that result in healthy conflict. Healthy conflict, although sometimes uncomfortable has a number of benefits:
- Healthy conflict is a sign of trust, security and safety.
- Healthy conflict invites diverse points of views.
- Healthy conflict surfaces and exposes potential issues.
- Healthy conflict builds commitment.
- Healthy conflict leads to better decisions.
In the overall perspective, healthy conflict opens the door to growth and opportunity. It allows for re-framing and re-scripting situations so that we can gain new perspectives and overcome preconceived self-limiting beliefs. It moves the ball forward! At the end of the day, a source of conflict will only be resolved if and when there is a desire to do so. Whether that be through compromise, productive communication, listening, being the bigger person, or finding common ground on the issue. Conflict is part of our daily lives in and out of work. So we have a choice to embrace it and not hide from it.
How do you handle conflict? Do you agree with the idea that conflict can be seen as a positive? We are always happy to meet with anyone. So if you would like to continue this discussion further, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website www.peerexecutiveboards.com and contact us virtually. We will be happy to get back to you!
TractionPure2 is an affiliate of Peer Executive Boards and focused on “elevating entrepreneur businesses from complexity to simplicity” using the EOS® Model and Process. EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® takes entrepreneur businesses on a journey of mastery of the EOS tools which enables businesses to elevate their leadership teams to make better decisions, maintain a level of accountability, and attain greater success more simplistically. The components of EOS® are Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction, which when used effectively attains a healthier organization with greater success. Marshall Krupp is the founder and Principal of TractionPure2 and a recognized Professional EOS® Implementer serving clients throughout the nation. He is also a national speaker, a past award-winning Vistage Worldwide Chair, and a past career in providing crisis management strategic service to businesses, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit organizations.