Once a team has established high levels of trust, this enables it to engage in productive debate about important issues. Failure to do this leads to poor decision-making, a lack of buy-in from those who disagree and any conflict that does exist surfaces in other ways behind the scenes, often in a less-than-healthy way, such as through personal attacks or back-biting.
Action plan: Make it clear that conflict (or debate if you don’t like the word) is necessary, desirable and expected. If when discussing potentially contentious issues, some of the team are silent, encourage them to share their views. Recognise that this takes time; resist the temptation to rush discussions around critical issues when conflict emerges. Use the Thomas Kilman Instrument to discover your natural approach to conflict as this will help you to identify, for example if you have a tendency to avoid conflict, to seek to preserve harmony, or to try to win at all costs. Finally, agree some ‘conflict norms’ with your team, covering off what is acceptable in terms of language, behaviours, tone of voice and even the process for conflict i.e. not interrupting.