Conflict! There are very few people in the world that can honestly say they love conflict and spend their days seeking it out. Most of us just want to get along with others. In fact, we are trained by our parents and teachers to "just get along". Growing up, I had the odd "clip around the ear" for having a spat with my brother within earshot of my mum. I don't like to upset or hurt people and you don't need to if you do it right.
I think it is because the word conflict for us has very negative connotations. CONFLICT Meaning: Early 15c "to contend, fight, struggle," from Latin conflictus, from assimilated form of com "with, together" + fligere "to strike". Meaning "be in opposition, be contrary or at variance" is from the 1640s. I like the area of contending together for something worthwhile.
The thing is, teams that make really good decisions are teams that are willing to engage in robust arguments, and that are willing to contend with each other ideologically. And the only way you can do this is if you have a high level of trust. And not just the "I trust so and so to do this and that", I am talking about vulnerability-based trust.
When it comes to conflict within teams, there is a continuum, on the one side there is artificial harmony and on the other side is mean-spirited conflict. The ideal for any team is to find the middle ground - healthy conflict around idea's so that you can come to the best solution, leaving no stone unturned is helpful and productive. And yes, sometimes in the heat of the moment you might overstep onto the Darkside, but a team that has done the work around trust are able to apologise, make amends and walk away better off.
Kiwi's in particular really don't enjoy conflict. Everyone is very focused on avoiding any kind of confrontation for the most part. The problem is it leaves you to have to deal with artificial harmony and just like artificial sugar it leaves an awful aftertaste. This is where everyone smiles and nods their heads around the table during the discussions, and then have the meeting after the meeting. Where decisions are made, but there is no real commitment to following through because most of the people around the table don't actually agree or think it will work, but because they are not speaking up it is taken as agreement. So much time is wasted and it also leads to resentment and frustration which inevitably escalates to mean-spirited conflict.
Over the last two years, I fear that we are less inclined to disagree because as we see on social media it becomes very mean very fast. I worry that we are losing the ability to have meaningful robust discussions that are focused on bringing solutions. From what I can see from the socials, we are becoming less inclined to hear and try to understand other peoples views. I wonder how this is impacting our performance in the meeting rooms and boardrooms around the world? I wonder if we are making solid decisions if we are less likely to enter into healthy conflict?
What do you think about conflict at the moment?