In her great TEDtalk, Dare To Disagree, Margaret Heffernan talks about conflict among individuals and within larger organizations…and how constructive conflict isn’t bad, but actually very good. I’ve written enough on here about conflict that you all should know that I completely agree with this viewpoint.
Benefits of operating our teams with a constructive conflict model
- Surrounding ourselves with assistant coaches who will challenge us and create conflict around what we think is true will make us better leaders. For example, a few years ago, one of my starters got hurt mid-match and we made in-game adjustments as necessary. But after the match, when we had time to think about it, we discussed our options and I poo poo’d my assistant’s suggestion of a lineup change. He persisted and his suggestion worked much better than the one I’d assumed would be best.
- When we explore all possibilities, we can feel confident we’re on the right path. I’m a big fan of asking my assistants, “so what do you think?” They may get tired of me always exploring, but when we hit a problem from every angle, I can feel confident that we’re doing what’s best for the team.
How do we set up a constructive conflict model with our team?
- See conflict as thinking. Conflict gets a bad rap. When we get right down to it, conflict is just exploring different ways to solve the same problem.
- Don’t be afraid of conflict. Conflict among coaching staffs shouldn’t include screaming, yelling, name-calling, or other any of the other negative outcomes. It truly should be a group of people with the same destination…they’re just all taking different roads.
- Find assistants who think differently than we do. Heffernan says we’re genetically predisposed to surround ourselves with people who are like us. That’s great if we want coaches who just parrot off what we say…not so great if we want to be thoughtful about the direction of our team.
- Have the patience and energy to seek these people out. Finding those folks who will feel comfortable challenging us isn’t easy and it will take time. Some of us have the opportunity to hire those people, while others of us will have to cultivate this atmosphere of constructive conflict among an existing coaching staff.
- Be prepared to change our minds. This is the biggie. If we’re going to seek out folks who’ll disagree with our opinions, we have to be open-minded enough to acknowledge that their ideas may, in fact, be better and more successful than ours.
So how many of us will dare to do this? When we learn to see constructive conflict as productive and not negative, we’ll be more apt to try it.