I was talking with a friend the other day who is part of a volunteer group with me. He was noting "idiosyncrasies" between team members that he indicated as needing improvement. What he described were two team members who were having a disagreement on a course of action. And, in this case, people's lives were at risk. Disagreement is not a bad thing, especially when making an important decision! Many teams want to minimize conflict and that is that exactly wrong thing to try to do. If everyone on a team thinks alike, no one is thinking at all. Disagreements are good, if they are handled constructively. Here are a few ideas on how to make disagreements work.

  • First of all, encourage conflict. Give permission for people to debate and to share differing view points.
  • Focus on the issue, problem, task at hand, or decision.
  • Avoid personal attacks. Conflict shouldn't be about personalities. It should be about the issue.
  • Agree on behaviors that are acceptable during conflict. Create norms that will guide team member behavior.
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