Team Leadership Success: Tuning Conflict Into Opportunity

I don’t know about you but have you ever come across a team where there is perfect harmony and agreement all of the time?  Conflict on teams from time to time is unavoidable in my experience.


When thinking about conflict, it is useful to make a distinction between productive and unproductive conflict.  Productive conflict usually comes from a desire to move things forward.  Unproductive conflict by comparison is generally about stalling or preventing progress.


So if you are a team leader, how can you turn conflict into opportunity?


Set boundaries


Just like children, adults in the work place will try to push the boundaries at times.  If you are the leader make a point of setting boundaries around what is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to dealing with tensions on the team.


Get people to actively listen


You might have heard the phrase that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  We are often much more interested in getting our point of view across rather than properly listening to others.  As the leader make a point of ensuring people pay attention and really actively listen to what others are saying.


Be the role model


As the leader you set the tone for the team.  If you show people through your behaviours and actions how to deal with conflict they will start to put some of that into practice.  Show people how to turn conflict into opportunity.


Teach people how to give constructive feedback


Picking holes in other folk’s ideas is easy to do but achieves very little.  While giving constructive feedback is more difficult it can really help to create new possibilities and options.  Invest the time in getting your team good at giving and receiving constructive feedback.


Bottom Line – You can’t eliminate conflict but you can use it in a way that it contributes to rather than hinders success.




Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and health professionals to become highly effective leaders and managers and improve team working.  Find out more by clicking here

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

Leave a Comment:

Roberta Hill says 14 January 2010


Your post gives some good starters on how to allow for conflict to be raised and discussed. I would begin with the point that conflict is not only necessary but good It is the leader’s job to hold that tension and make it OK.

Here is a quote from the work of Pat Lencioni (5 Dysfunctions of a Team) who really sees conflict as more than an opportunity but a necessity:
“Dealing with conflict: If you have a marriage where you don’t argue, you don’t have a good marriage. Great relationships are built on the ability to disagree—even passionately. Great teams debate things.”

And another quote from this blog post:

Peter Drucker recounted how Alfred P. Sloan, legendary CEO of GM, handled this:
“Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here,” Sloan said. After everyone around the table nodded affirmatively, Sloan continued: “Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”


Duncan Brodie says 16 January 2010

Hi Roberta

Great points that you make.

You are absolutely right thelast thing that we want is no conflict as the healthy tension is often what keeps teams sharp.

I think it is always useful to distinguish between the productive and unproductive conflict.

Thanks for making the time to comment.

Duncan Brodie
Goals and Achievements Ltd

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