Benchmark Business Group

When Conflict is Good

January 31, 2017

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The last four weeks we talked about resolving conflicts. However, the lack of conflict within your business isn't always something to be excited about. In fact, it might be a warning sign. Conflict helps your business innovate. It helps you test and challenge assumptions you make before implementing new ideas or even products. No conflict could mean that your business culture isn't embracing conflict and you could be missing out on opportunities.

This week, we challenge you to think about and ensure that your business isn't falling into the trap of a "Yes" culture. It's nice when you have like-minded people in your organization, but if your team isn't willing to push back on ideas and speak up when something is wrong, then you've got a problem. You could miss out on opportunities to innovate, increase revenue, and improve efficiency. This could also lead to low morale and an unwillingness to bring new ideas into your business. You could also miss warning signs of a large issue that could have been prevented. 

There are many reasons why team members don't speak up: you or someone on your management team isn't open to conflict in the form of constructive criticism; personality traits among your team; or even fears of rocking the boat. If you notice that there is no push-back and no voicing of concerns or ideas, then you need to examine the culture of your business. It's vital to remember that silence isn't an agreement. A "Yes" culture isn't just a culture where people are actively agreeing with you. It's also a culture in which people remain silent.
Even if you don't feel that you currently have a "Yes" culture, here are a few tips to create peaceful conflict within your business:


  • Ask your team directly to list the negatives or barriers on projects or ideas.
  • Train and ask your team to use SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis tools.
  • Train your team on how to present and receive constructive criticism.
  • Have your team take personality profiles such as DiSC to work on understanding communication styles.
  • Train leaders in the company to embrace push back, because if they don't the team will go silent.
  • Actively ask for direct feedback from clients, vendors, and your team. 
  • Provide safe and sometimes anonymous ways for people to provide sensitive feedback.
  • Ensure that you and/or your leadership team have a presence with all members of your team. This will make them more comfortable to come to you when there is an issue.
  • Embrace mistakes as opportunities to improve. If your team is afraid to make a mistake they won't explore new ideas and or take risks.
  • Implement and uphold culture value statements and client service promises. When your team understands your vision and what you are working to achieve, they will know when to report an issue or challenge a concept.
  • Reward people for discovering a problem or challenging an idea. The reward doesn't have to be monetary. It can be praise.
  • Ensure that your team is connected to "why" your business does what it does. If they understand "why" and are invested in your vision, they will be more involved.

If you experience little to no "conflict" it could be that you no longer think of "conflict" in the same terms. When you embrace conflict it doesn't always feel like conflict. It might feel like a challenge, a debate, or even creative criticism. Just be careful that you're 100% sure you haven't created a "Yes" culture. 

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