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15 Ways to Fight Fair

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“Most organizations have far too little conflict,” Pat Lencioni at the 2011 World Business Forum.

Friction between individuals based on personalities, backstabbing, and gossip stifles organizations, hinders productivity, and creates negative work environments. Solve it quickly.

On the other hand, teams that can’t fight fair are mediocre. They never innovate. They seldom leverage each other’s skill. Worst of all, they fall below the beauty of excellence.

15 ways to have a fair fight:

  1. Involve people with skin in the game, no one else. (except for a facilitator)
  2. Flatten the group by valuing every voice. Leaders and decision makers are participants with everyone.
  3. Say what you really think.
  4. Withhold judgment.
  5. Never reward yes-men and brown-nosers.
  6. Never attack a person, ever.
  7. Train people to listen fully and understand clearly before challenging an idea. Purposeful conflict requires understanding.
  8. Institutionalize improvement and excellence.
  9. Stay on target. It’s about the product.
  10. Honor dissent; never punish when alternatives are presented.
  11. Avoid defensiveness. When it gets personal productive conflict turns ugly.
  12. Embrace the pursuit of excellence as an organizational value.
  13. Apologize with humility.
  14. Eject participants that don’t fully embrace mission, vision, and values.
  15. Pull together once decisions are made, even when you disagree.

I don’t think Lencioni believes organizations need more gossips and backstabbers. You must, however, fight to excel.

Get real:

I’ve always enjoyed hot debate but not everyone feels the same. If it’s easy for you, you may be dangerous. Many organizations aren’t close to healthy conflict.

  1. Leaders and teams need training to learn how to engage in productive disagreement.
  2. Leaders need humility and courage; humility to not make it personal and courage to jettison those who persistently undermine the process. Weak leaders can’t endure the hot debate that produces excellence.

How can organizations nurture healthy, productive conflict?

What dangers should be addressed?


Special thanks to those who participated in the discussion of Pat Lencioni’s comment on the Leadership Freak Coffee Shop facebook page:

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