Conflicts. Good or Bad?

Have you even been involved in or witness a conflicts within any group you worked with? Or have you heard stories about it from your friends, familiars and coworkers? I am sure you had. Conflicts are very common in teams, specially when the diversity is implemented, having people with different culture backgrounds and thoughts. Conflicts can be a number of different things. Some typical definitions include:

  • Difference of opinion with another;
  • Complaints about performance;
  • Criticism of behaviors and attitude;
  • Speaking out for beliefs;
  • Risking the loss of acceptance;
  • And others

For many teams, conflicts are uncomfortable and threatening. It is so unpleasant that many believe that all conflicts are bad and must be avoided and stifled. This, however, is a myth. Conflicts can be seen positively in its constructive form as a perfect opportunity for the growth of the team, as it is essential to high performance.

People are a lot likely to believe that the team cohesion is determined by personal chemistry, and that all members of high performance teams like each other. Well, guess what? This is also a myth.  This erroneous belief is often used to justify individual-oriented corrective actions that include reassignment, discipline, and termination, but when the causes of poor team cohesion aren’t personal, these actions are ineffective. Moreover, in misguided efforts to form high performance teams, we sometimes staff teams according to personal chemistry rather than knowledge, skill, or capability.

Another myth that is really popular among team members is the believe that conflicts undermines performance. Many believe that conflict is always bad and destructive, that disagreements always threaten team goals, and that those who disagree aren’t team players. However, what many people don’t know is how to disagree agreeably, or how to engage in substantive debate while avoiding personal attacks. For all these people, disagreement leads to toxic conflict. If disagreement is disallowed, how can teams ever perfect group decisions? All positions would remain unquestioned until their advocates moved on. Conflict usually entails disagreement, but conflict can be either destructive or constructive. Constructive conflict is essential to high performance.

The last myth I am going to talk about regarding to conflicts in teams, is the belief that every team trouble is always caused by the few “bad-apple”. This belief is also followed by the thoughts that by eliminating those “bad-apples” or by modifying their behavior, all the problems will come to an end.  How wrong can they be? The true is that by eliminating the bad-apples, the symptoms are only being driven underground and no problems will be solved. To achieve high performance we must actually address problems, and that requires people who are willing to speak up in order for the team to get to a solution together.

Now, one last question. How do you stand on this myths? Do you think they are actually true?
Share your ideas with me by leaving comments so we can have a conversation about it.
Thanks for reading!

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The Richness of Diversity in Teamwork

On my senior year playing for the Nevada Wolf Pack Tennis Team, one curious fact that caught my attention was that among the seven girls from our team, each of them was from a different country. It is very common in college tennis to have foreign players being recruited to play for American universities. In the season of 2011, the UNR women’s tennis team had players from Brazil (me), Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, France, Netherlands, and Ireland. Having so many different backgrounds, I found my team to be unique and one of the reasons for our effectiveness and success. This uniqueness is called diversity.

Diversity is one of the most widely methods used to increase creativity and effectiveness of team. in practice, this means forming teams with individuals from different (cultural) backgrounds so the team becomes more heterogeneous. it does not necessarily mean having people from different countries. For many groups and organizations diversity may include having people from different fields of study, from different gender, and from different ages as members. Ultimately, however, what really matters in terms of diversity is the scope of creativity and the variety of thoughts and ideas that these members can bring to the team in order to improve and reach success.

Now, let’s think for a moment. So more heterogeneous the team, more creative the solutions are going to come up? Unfortunately, not necessarily.  The whole issue of diversity is naturally complex, also involving conflicts caused by differences in culture and thoughts. But the general assumption is that diversity should be favored because it improves  team’s creativity and performance.

Whether you like teamwork, or brainstorming, or not, the fact remains that ideas, concepts and decisions develop in a collective environment, and that is what ultimately favor. Let’s be honest. No one likes an overly decisive team leader, yet and indecisive leader isn’t a leader at all. The message I am trying to pass here is that, all the various roles are needed for effective team to take place.

How does diversity take place in the group where you work? Do you think homogeneity becomes an obstacle sometimes in decision making and problem solving?
I believe in the richness of diversity in Teamwork. What about you?


What is Teamwork and why do we want it?

Teamwork is defined as the action performed by a team towards a common goal. A team consists of more than one person, each of whom typically has different responsibilities. We should be careful not to confuse the term “group” with the term “team”, because individuals of a group, not necessarily have a common goal.  A team includes seven common elements:

1. common purpose
2. interdependence
3. clarity or roles and contribution
4. satisfaction from mutual working
5. mutual and individual accountability
6. realization of synergies
7. empowerment

Although it can be very challenging to put into practice, teamwork is a method that promote effectiveness for many reasons. It is also the oil that makes the team work. Teamwork creates synergy and supports a more empowered way of working. Moreover, it promotes the sense of achievement, equity and camaraderie, essential for a motivated workplace. Teamwork has the potential to underpin so much of what is valuable in work. In fact, the benefits to be gained from teamwork synergies are essential for the effective management of resources.

The value of teamwork is usually seen in sports, as I have experienced during my four years of college tennis. Even though tennis is an individual sport, when playing next to and with the support of other players who have the same objective, the synergistic value maximizes the strengths of each other. Of course, each player still has their individual goals, such as improving the serve or the backhand, or to increase agility. However, the improvement of each individual still works toward the team’s objective.

It is such more pleasant to work with people who you can count on in order to get to the point you want to be. Have you thought about that? Let’s start to see the beauty of having a common goal and raise our arms together as a signal of victory!

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