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3. The Upside of Conflict

By Patrick Lencioni - August 2019

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3. The Upside of Conflict

At the Table with Patrick Lencioni

Episode Summary

Patrick Lencioni tackles one of his favorite topics. He and Cody Thompson discuss why conflict is critical on teams and why so many companies avoid it at all costs. Patrick Lencioni provides practical tips for leaders and teams looking to bring more healthy conflict into their decision-making.


Navigating the Tensions of Team Dynamics: Embracing Healthy Conflict for Organizational Success

In the corporate corridors and social gatherings, the word ‘conflict’ often carries a negative connotation. However, Pat and the team have observed a paradoxical trend: while conflict is generally perceived as harmful, the lack of it can be detrimental to the health of an organization. The costs of avoiding conflict are substantial, impacting relationships, decision-making processes, and stifling innovation.

The Relationship Depth Dilemma

One of the most significant casualties of conflict avoidance is the depth of relationships. Whether it’s between coworkers, friends, or family members, the absence of healthy debate leads to superficial connections. Pat often reflects on his own marriage to illustrate this point. Pat & his wife, coming from backgrounds ripe for passionate discourse, have learned that through their disagreements, they forge a stronger bond. Conversely, they’ve witnessed couples who never argue, only to find their relationships crumbling due to unresolved issues.

Innovation and Decision-Making: The Hidden Victims

Tension is not just inevitable but necessary in the creative cauldron of innovation. During the development of Pat’s next book, the vigorous debates with his team were instrumental in refining ideas and ensuring the best possible outcome. Similarly, decision-making suffers in an environment where consensus is sought at the expense of candid discussion. The pursuit of a ‘safe’ decision often leads to mediocre results that satisfy no one.

The Cultural Conflict Conundrum

Cultural differences in conflict management can further complicate team dynamics. Some cultures view conflict as disrespectful, while others see it as a healthy part of interaction. In our podcast, we explored these nuances and shared personal experiences to highlight the universal need for constructive conflict.

The Transformation from Ideological to Personal Conflict

A particularly insidious effect of avoiding conflict is the transformation of ideological differences into personal animosity. When teams shy away from addressing issues head-on, frustrations simmer and eventually boil over into personal grievances. This phenomenon is not limited to corporate settings; it’s prevalent in all types of organizations, including religious institutions.

Striking the Right Balance

So, what is the right amount of conflict? It’s not about encouraging endless debates but ensuring that every voice is heard and all perspectives are considered. Teams must engage in enough conflict to air out their views without crossing into destructive territory. It’s a delicate balance that requires trust, openness, and a willingness to embrace discomfort for the greater good.

Forgiveness: The Unsung Hero of Conflict Resolution

An essential aspect of healthy conflict is the ability to forgive. When disagreements do cross the line, forgiveness allows teams to recover and move forward. It’s a critical component of maintaining a culture where conflict is not feared but seen as a pathway to growth and understanding.

In Conclusion: Embracing Conflict for Organizational Health

The takeaway is clear: avoiding conflict is a dangerous game that can undermine the very foundations of an organization. By embracing healthy conflict, we pave the way for deeper relationships, innovative solutions, and decisions that propel us forward. It’s a lesson that extends beyond the boardroom, enriching our personal lives and society as a whole.

We hope this exploration of healthy conflict has provided valuable insights. Remember, the goal is not to create discord but to harness the power of diverse perspectives in pursuit of excellence. May your discussions be lively, your decisions sound, and your relationships enriched by the constructive conflicts you courageously engage in.

Links Mentioned during Podcast

Show Notes

1:11 Patrick Lencioni introduces why conflict is necessary on teams

3:12 Lack of conflict inhibits innovation

4:21 Lack of conflict leads to bad decision making 

5:34 Lack of conflict around ideas ferments into conflict around people

6:59 Patrick Lencioni describes the right amount of conflict

7:34 People have to “weigh in to buy in”

10:16 Conflict without trust is politics 

15:01 Understanding conflict norms and conflict profiles

16:48 Karen Amador joins the podcast

17:56 Karen Amador describes the importance of conflict at The Table Group

18:31 Patrick Lencioni describes the conflict continuum

20:30 How good conflict at work can affect good conflict at home

21:21 Stories of good conflict

24:50 Patrick Lencioni talks about how to have good conflict 

25:00 Patrick Lencioni on the importance of Trust

27:25 Cody Thompson asks “What is the fastest way to build trust?”

29:09 Patrick Lencioni describes the Fundamental Attribution Error

29:59 “Mining” for Conflict 

30:36 Cody Thompson defines “Real Time Permission”

32:20 Conflict builds health relationships