Nothing affects team production like the quality of the team’s communication. One essential characteristic of great team communication is open, honest communication. That kind of talk always creates conflict as people express divergent views, ideas, and strategies. Engaging and managing conflict well is essential for a team to avoid mediocrity and become great.
Even in the church, great leadership and ministry teams fight to maintain unity around their common purpose and vision. In fact, they make “fighting” a regular part of team meetings. Of course, that means constructive, respectful, and fair fighting about ideas, not about people.
Here are six ways to stir constructive conflict in your staff meetings, no matter which chair you sit in:
- Model respectful, assertive, thoughtful, and honest critiques of ministry ideas and plans, and invite others to do the same of your own ideas and plans.
- Celebrate group members who say the hard thing even when it is uncomfortable to do so.
- Cultivate a norm (expectation) of: “If you see something, say it.” Don’t allow group members to keep their thoughts about a proposed direction to themselves, even if they are critical or contrary. They at least deserve to be heard and considered, even if dismissed later.
- Hold group members accountable to that norm. If you find out later that someone was able to “see around the corner” on an issue, but didn’t voice that perspective, confront it, first privately, and then perhaps with the rest of the team.
- Assign one or more people to play the role of “devil’s advocate” in every meeting. Make it that person’s (or group’s) job to search for problems, shortcomings, and oversights with the group’s decisions and plans.
- At least once a month, go around the table and ask each team member to identify one area in which the team or the church or ministry could improve. Require every person to answer the question. Then, either talk about those issues immediately, or put them on a future agenda.
In any case, don’t shut down conflict.
It is the fuel your team needs to maximize its impact.
How do you promote constructive conflict among your team or small group?