I believe I work with the best team that ever existed. We champion each other’s strengths, accept each other’s differences and collaborate to make a difference in the world.
One of the values our team holds is a culture of collaboration that invites conflict. Any book that teaches about good leadership (including mine) encourages conflict among team members. Conflict is a healthy, natural, and necessary process for innovation. Tension is what creates change and forward movement.
Conflict sounds and looks good on paper. The benefits are compelling. But when it really happens, it feels anything but healthy or natural.
Recently, I received an email from one of my trusted team members on a new policy I had posted to our team Facebook page. She noted my policy in her email, said she respected my leadership and asked if we may dialogue on the subject. How nice of her to write, I thought. Of course, I would like to have dialogue about the new policy. Dialogue is my thing!
As I read further, she noted that she felt the new policy would stifle collaboration and kill discussion. Then she mentioned that the new policy was a form of micro-management. What I heard her say, was: MICRO-MANAGEMENT! (You might as well give me a death sentence as a leader by using that word in an email regarding my work.) But, no matter. This MUST be a simple miscommunication. I emailed her back asking her to call me so we could talk in person instead of exchanging emails about the subject. I took full responsibility for not being considerate of our collaborative efforts in my first post to explain the behind the scene details of what lead to the new policy. I was assured that a simple conversation and explanation of the facts would clear the tension.
The call came. The tension did not clear,
EVEN when I explained the background of why I was making the policy. At one point, my team member said: You are probably getting tired of this conversation. My answer: Frankly, yes. I am tired of talking about this. My pride wanted to say, I made a decision and you will have to live with it. But instead as we hung-up I told her I appreciated her feedback and ideas (through clenched teeth).
I knew I was wrong. But my ego wanted to overtake any emotional intelligence I had about the matter. She had good points. Information I didn’t have when making the policy. Ideas that could take our problem (that created the policy) and turn it into opportunities.
The tension of conflict was just what we needed to initiate big changes that will have lasting impact on the people’s lives we serve. Without my teammate’s honest candor, that would not be happening.
Have you ever found yourself in my shoes?
If you have, here are some scriptures that helped me:
Proverbs 13:10 (NIV) Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Proverbs 19:20 (NIV) Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Proverbs 27:5-6 (NIV) Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 (MSG) It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!