Is all conflict bad? What types of conflict could you encourage in your team, and what types of conflict need expert managing to be resolved in your team?
High performing teams manage conflict well, whilst other teams are constantly hampered by a conflict that distracts, causes poor thinking, and brings harm.
In this blog, we share how team coaching can optimise conflict.
What Are The Different Conflict Types?
The first type of conflict that probably jumps to mind is relational conflict. Relational conflict always leads to negative performance as team members struggle with their interpersonal relationships, often resulting in tension across the whole team. This inevitably leads to stress, distractions, and an inability to think well when completing complex tasks. Performance becomes even worse if teams ignore or pretend that there isn’t a problem.
Another type is task conflict, which includes competing ideas, process differences, critical feedback of possible flaws and values disputes. With complex tasks, this leads to increased performance if your team have the maturity and expertise required for conflict management, whereas with simple tasks, task conflict leads to a drop in performance.
Finally, there is process conflict where the deployment of roles, responsibilities and resources can lead to disagreement and arguing. Like task conflict, this can have either a negative or positive impact on performance, depending on context.
These types of conflict are not necessarily mutually independent of each other. For example, a task or process conflict can lead to relational conflict. With conflict, it is always worth understanding the root cause.
So initially, one critical way how team coaching can optimise conflict in your team is to maximise positive task and process conflict whilst minimising negative relational conflict.
How Does Team Coaching Optimise Conflict?
Team coaching supports team leaders in choosing to use conflict to the advantage of the team. How team coaching can optimise conflict in your team depends on the team’s awareness of the systemic context and the team's mindset.
Team coaching promotes a non-judgemental, fault-free, objective dialogue that produces far higher degrees of openness and emotional stability in teams than would otherwise exist. Both are key ingredients in teams that seek to go beyond just ‘coping’ with conflict to using conflict to increase performance. Team coaching brings focus to common purpose, reflection to searching questions, and responsibility for everyone to play their part.
A central objective of team coaching is to work with the team leader to create psychological safety within the team, where the team can share ideas and make mistakes without fear. Teams begin to face conflict rather than turn away from conflict in this psychological safe space due to discomfort, awkwardness, and hurt.
Team coaching uses advanced expert techniques and processes, both with the team as a whole and individuals in one-to-one coaching sessions, to resolve relational conflict and develop maturity and expertise in managing task and process conflict.
“Team coaching is less about helping teams resolve conflict than about helping them generate more positive conflict” Clutterbuck ( 2020).
Team members learn to disagree more through team coaching as they explore how close they can navigate the areas of openness and honesty in tasks and process conflict without allowing this to spill over into relational conflict.
These are critical areas how team coaching can optimise conflict in your team.
Two key questions to ask yourself is, “What is the performance risk of not optimising conflict in my team?” and “Could conflict optimisation happen without the support of an expert team coach or at the same time?”
Contact Us Today
Conflict is present in all teams; the ability to use conflict to enhance performance is not.
If this blog has resonated with you and your desire to use conflict to your advantage in your team, then contact us today for an informal conversation. We provide highly experienced and qualified team coaches with a proven track record of success who can support you and your team to develop, learn, reflect and improve.
Written by leadership coach Ian.
Clutterbuck (2020) “Coaching the Team at Work” Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London
Amy Gallo (2017) “The HBR guide to Dealing with Conflict” Harvard Business Review Press, Brighton, MA
Tim Sudder (2021) “Have a Nice Conflict”