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Five Dysfunctions of a Team Training in Denver: Does your team engage in Productive Conflict?

There are two components of Productive Conflict. The first is that your team engages in an open and robust exchange of ideas. The second is dealing with interpersonal conflict. My blog last month spoke to interpersonal conflict so I now turn my attention to cultivating a robust exchange of ideas. Both of these concepts are addressed in our Five Dysfunctions of a Team Training in Denver.

I am currently in the middle of doing a leadership team retreat in Denver to help the team integrate the material from the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I am reflecting on our last session, which was primarily about Building Trust and Productive Conflict.

Many teams that I have worked with avoid conflict and that is the pitfall that they have to overcome. Talking about the elephant in the living room becomes a high priority. Some leadership teams, and this one included, have a mixture of avoiding conflict and allowing for “too much” challenging to sap the team’s energy. This generally comes when ego is involved and team members are attached to their own ideas without regard for the impact on the team.

When Patrick Lencioni discusses conflict in his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he focuses a lot of energy in warning about “artificial harmony.” The kind of harmony that gets created when there is a fear of conflict and engaging in what I like to call a “robust exchange of ideas.” What happens when the opposite occurs? When there are 1, 2 or 3 people who are continually challenging ideas and decisions simply for the sake of challenging them?

The result I saw on this team is that we spent a huge amount of time dealing with the “naysayers” (their languaging, not mine) in order to move the group forward. Other team members and myself were continually explaining ourselves, concepts, and decisions, until the “challengers” and those who needed a high level of detail were satisfied. At the end of the day, we had a productive session – and- many of us were drained. It takes energy to balance out a team.

In addition, because the “challenges” came from the same people over and over again, the rest of the team did not always have a chance to voice their opinions, and the negative voices sometimes prevailed, leaving either the team leader or me as the facilitator to bring a balance in perspective.

I believe there is a balance in dealing with productive disagreement, playing devil’s advocate and challenging ideas. If your team has taken the DiSC assessment, you might remember that the Ds and the Cs, being more questioning and skeptical, have a tendency to focus on what is wrong so that they can fix it. If your team has a predominance of DC personalities, you will have to actively look for what IS working and balance out the challenging energy with appreciation and a search for commonalities. This is EVERY team member’s job, not just the team leader’s.

Here are some questions you can ask yourselves during team meetings to make sure that there is healthy questioning during team meetings without getting bogged down in negativity.

  • Have we looked at this from another perspective?
  • What have we missed here?
  • Have we solicited outside points of view?
  • What would be the impact of this decision? On people? On the business?
  • What is best for the team and the organization?
  • What is the bigger picture?
  • What IS working about what we are currently doing or our current plan?
  • What accomplishments have we made this week as a team that we can acknowledge or celebrate?
  • Where can you see that we have an underlying commonality or agreement?
  • Is this discussion productive right now?
  • Are we balancing challenging ideas with moving forward?
  • What else is possible?

I encourage you to generate your own list of questions and guidelines as a team to help you navigate conflict and foster a robust change of ideas!

If you would like assistance in this process, please contact us. We offer leadership retreats in Denver, quarterly leadership and team training, and Beyond the Five  Dysfunctions of a Team Training in Denver.

To your growth and development!

Jeannie Gunter, MA

Founder and President, Transformative Training



Jeannie Gunter, MA

Jeannie Gunter, MA

Founder, Transformative Solutions

303 653-3097

Jeannie works with a wide variety of clients to help them increase their team effectiveness and leadership capacity in their teams. She has worked both nationally and internationally as an organizational consultant, facilitator, speaker and wilderness guide.

With a strong background in group dynamics, over the past 20 years Jeannie has guided hundreds of teams in a wide variety of organizations to successful outcomes in team, personal and professional development.


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