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Company Growth Strategy: Encourage Conflict (Article)

The secret to my personal and company success is using conflict to identify the path forward. I don’t mean walk around looking for a fight, but the best ideas and results come out of healthy discussions about what’s not working.

Here’s how to make the most of the inevitable conflicts that arise as you oversee a growing business:

Support Differences of Opinion

You can’t build a business surrounded by a bunch of “yes” men and women. You need people who will push back and punch holes in your ideas to be sure you are also considering what could go wrong. You will not be successful with a company culture in which staffers bite their tongues or don’t feel free to express their opinions.
As the boss, you have to open the door to conflict. If you think someone is holding back or disagrees with your strategy, do not let it slip by. Use that opportunity to invite other employees ideas or raise concerns.

Find Answers

If someone on your team identifies a problem you haven’t, then she is already further down the path to come up with a resolution. As others bring up possible pitfalls, hold them accountable for also offering up ways to solve those issues. This technique prevents employees from focusing on negativity, and makes all involved feel invested in the course selected to move forward.
This approach is one of the keys to developing other leaders around you. My team knows “do not bring up a problem without a potential solution.”

Follow a Structure

Use a formalized structure for dealing with conflict so that discussions remain professional and problems that emerge are handled effectively. I use weekly staff meetings and project “post mortems” to discuss potential issues with our processes.
When things are not going well during the delivery of a project, knowing there will be a later opportunity to discuss future changes keeps everyone focused on getting through turbulence and helps minimize personality clashes. Using an objective structure that focuses on what to do next time helps move the discussion from debate to consensus.

Learn About Your Team

In conflict, you learn who gets toughest when the going is rough. Some people ignore conflict and are peacemakers. Others will come at you with the force of a tornado. You don’t have to subject your staff to extensive personality tests to find this out. What you need to know is how to deal with it. I have learned that extreme types can be as useful as those in the middle who are more tempered. The key is to capitalize on the enthusiasm of the outspoken team members while taking into account all opinions.
Uncover Truths
If you ignore inconsistencies while managing your company and have tunnel vision toward a goal, you will overlook market shifts that can throw your company off course. Actively seek out paradoxes and try to find out what they mean.

As a leader, seeking out conflict is not a bad thing. It’s unavoidable. A key to success is learning how to capitalize on moments of conflict to help you and your company leap forward.