Growth Happens Through Healthy Conflict

  1. Share
0 0

Defining Healthy Conflict

If ‘healthy conflict’ sounds a bit like a warm snowstorm, you’re not alone. I thought the same thing the first time I heard the phrase. So, what is it?


Healthy conflict is the middle ground between acting like everything’s fine and attacking someone’s character.


It involves a difference in opinion and a disposition of wanting the best outcome-regardless of being rightUnhealthy conflict may also involve differing opinions but is always characterized by a winner and loser. Unhealthy conflict loses sight of the larger goal and instead zooms in on individual gain or loss.


An example: You’re in a conversation and a disagreement about a specific topic happens. Ten minutes later it ends in an argument about something completely different. Neither you nor the other person knows what the issue is anymore but you both feel unheard and personally attacked.No resolution on the initial topic. Apologies are needed to rebuild trust.


When you care passionately about something, emotion is involved. We’re human. We can’t help it! But we can choose how to direct our emotions when a disagreement happens. And disagreement is commonplace in healthy conflict.


So then how do you keep from ending with apologies? Well, being quick to apologize should always be present. However, a helpful differentiator between the healthy and unhealthy conflict is motive. When the motive behind the conflict starts with or slides into selfishness, then you’re just a heartbeat away from an unhealthy conversation.


Ingredients for unhealthy conflict: pride, quick-witted joking, definitive statements, overuse of "always/never", justifying yourself, and the classic ‘just telling it like it is’ mentality


Ingredients for healthy conflict: humility, thoughtful questions, disagreeing with ideas vs. people, a mindset of “we vs. me, admitting when you’re wrong, and embracing the awkwardness


The following pages will guide you in gaining confidence to implement a vital exercise in your leadership regimen.


Why Healthy Conflict Matters

For most people healthy conflict is counterintuitive and awkward at first, so why even bother? Simply put, your success depends on it.

On page 17 of Business Made Simple Donald Miller says, “All human progress happens by passing through conflict. You cannot climb a mountain, build a bridge, create a community, or grow a business without engaging in and navigating conflict.” He goes on to say, “If you avoid conflict, you will not achieve success.”


Here are a few practical examples of what’s forfeited when conflict is avoided:

  • Direct, honest conversations
  • Employee engagement and ownership
  • Small issues staying small issues
  • Fully vetted ideas
  • Interdepartmental trust being gained
  • A decrease in gossip


Flip it, and that means there’s a ton to gain for your team, your company, and your leadership personally when you engage in healthy conflict.  There is less pressure on you as the leader to hold everyone accountable because the individuals involved are bought in.  There is more productivity because “what’s best for the company” is sought after versus winning an argument.


Why does healthy conflict matter?  Because it brings us together.  It sets us on level ground. It moves us forward.


As the cadence of healthy conflict becomes consistent, you will experience:

  • Effective meetings by answering, “Who does what and by when?”
  • Accuracy in analytics & accountability for something working or not
  • Elevated employee creativity and calculated risk-taking
  • Clarity on ROI goals & what success looks like before launching a new initiative
  • Increased employee morale


Sounds simple, right?  It is simple, but it isn’t easyIt isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth it.


Need more? 

We have over 100 leadership podcasts to aid in your growth.

Check out our YouTube and LinkedIn pages for more encouraging content.  

If you’re looking to take your growth as a leader to the next level, we’ve got you covered. Join the Impact of Leadership Community today!


To leave a comment, login or sign up.

Related Content

The Great Resignation: People Quit Jobs Not Bosses
Greener Pastures “People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” That’s a very popular phrase and one that will get you reactions on social media. It’s also crap. At least as a blanket statement about why people are leaving jobs right now. There’s truth in the phrase, of course, but it falls WAY short of what leaders are experiencing in just about every organization. Regardless of how great a boss you've been. The danger is if we take it at face value, then every leader should be ashamed of themselves when someone quits. “It’s your fault, says so right there—people quit bosses. Do better.” Patrick and I have posted on LinkedIn, written blogs, and even published a podcast about The Great Resignation. It’s a wild time to be in leadership. Here’s something we have found to be true: If you lose an employee over something you can’t offer, it’s not your fault. They didn’t quit their boss, they quit the job.   An Offer They Can’t Refuse There are insightful articles from The Atlantic, USA Today, Inc Magazine, and many others about what’s happening nationally with people quitting. Burnout (White collar/Blue collar/Covid), shortage of talent, remote work options...etc. That’s not this blog. I work at a company (CCB Technology) that has an average tenure of around 12 years. We’ve lost 20% of our staff in the last 9 months. Both of those things are true. For a company that’s been around 30 years and prides itself on having a healthy culture—this has been a very confusing time. So why have people left? Our Executive team had to brace ourselves as we looked at each other and asked, “Is it us? Why are we bleeding good people?”. We found a few themes and made some moves.   Major reasons people left: 1.   Money 2.   Money & fully remote work environment 3.   Money & just needed a change A pattern began to develop, so we looked deeper into the biggest factor--money. We wondered, “Are people leaving us over a $5k bump?” One of the benefits of having trusting relationships with employees is that most of them told their manager what the other company was offering – without being asked. Several were even apologetic that it was something they just couldn’t turn down.   Another pattern rose, these offers were BONKERS.     25-75% increases over what they were currently making. We investigated our pay structure and found we were competitive with our wages in the marketplace...then the marketplace changed. The tension of CCB being a small business was acutely felt. We just can’t give someone a $35k raise. Even if we love them. Not all hope is lost though.   The Great Reshuffle Losing 20% of our staff doesn’t tell the whole story any more than “people quit bosses” does. One person purchased a coffee shop with her husband, a dream come true for her. One person was let go, which was very much earned. Another had a rough day and quit with no backup plan. Just walked out. And another retired.   On paper, those folks left CCB but they didn’t quit their boss. (The one that walked out had their direct supervisor asking for more information and offering to help. No explanation, just done.) There’s more, we’ve also had a stiff uptick in interviewing and onboarding new employees in the last 30 days. I mean, what else are we going to do amirite? We also fought back by settling into who we are as a company vs. trying to be something we’re not. For example, we like our employees to physically be together. Even if it’s not every day. So we do a hybrid schedule of Tuesday/Wednesday in the office. We also kicked up the fun. Our Marketing team scheduled weekly company times around food, drink, and Farkle. (I’m sorry, what?) And the Sales team is accruing points that can be used during an auction later this year. Next week we're having a company-wide paper airplane flying contest.   But what about the money?? Where we could afford it, employees got raises, received bonuses, or saw their incentive plans more lucrative as goals were hit. Fortunately for the company, Patrick had been wise with the finances and that rainy day fund was available. Liking who you work with is very important, but there’s something money says about value without speaking any words.   Ideas and Encouragement It’s painful to lose people. It’s worse to go through it and not learn anything. It’s a wonderful thing to learn from someone else’s pain! Conduct exit interviews What can you learn from what this employee said? Be direct with your questions but standardize a template Send to the employee beforehand with an explanation of how the exit interview is structured and what it’s for Figure out what you can stomach Can you give raises? If this person leaves, can you balance the load? Are you a company that can function with a remote workforce? Communicate with the company People are going to talk, close the story loop for them. Share as much as you can Be resolute in the company’s future Be present Don’t freakin’ hide in your office hoping it’ll blow over If your nose is bloody and your eye is blackened, it’s because you’re in a fight Put your oxygen mask on first You can’t give what you don’t have Keep exercising. Keep drinking water. Keep laughing.   The Great Resignation highlights leadership. It matters how we act when we’re unsure of outcomes but sure of the struggle. Know who you are. Lean into your trusting teams. Keep fighting. Breathe.   The IOL Community exists to Equip, Connect and Grow leaders. We’re with you as you push forward! Need more?  Listen to Tod Bolsinger talk about how to lead in uncharted territory. Listen to Patrick Booth talk about The Great Resignation: Fight Like A Small Business Check out the IOL Community Groups to connect with like-minded leaders! Go to our YouTube and LinkedIn pages for more encouraging content.