Bad teams are filled with conflict, and good teams have an absence of conflict, right? Wrong. Good teams have healthy conflict.

Bad teams often do have conflict. Conflict between people. Conflict that is basically just a clash of personalities. People manage to rub each other up the wrong way, with the result that those involved in the conflict don’t fulfil their responsibilities, other team members become demotivated, and not much gets done.

But bad teams are often also marked by an absence of conflict – a lack of conflict over ideas. The leader, either through intimidation or lack of inspiration, is surrounded by a group of ‘yes’ people who just rubber stamp whatever ideas are suggested. But they never bring their own ideas, and they never critique the leaders’ ideas to improve them. And the same result is that not much gets done.

Good teams therefore do have conflict – healthy conflict. They don’t argue over personality clashes, but they do argue over ideas. Whenever something is proposed they debate, chip in, pull it apart, add in their own views, and come to a solution that is far greater than the thinking any one person could have achieved. The result is a better solution, and one that has far more ownership from the team, and so is far more likely to succeed.

So what’s the barometer reading on your team? Do you have too much bad conflict over personality clashes? Or not enough conflict over ideas? Or have you achieved the ideal solution – no conflict between personalities, but plenty of healthy conflict over the ideas you want to implement?

Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and is currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.

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