Teamwork requires conflict

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If the title of this article makes you scratch your head, consider for a few minutes the concept that a strong team with a high degree of trust requires its members to challenge one another.

Ian Thomas, a professional speaker from South Africa was using the illustration of a pride of lions and the lessons we could learn in terms of our workplace teams.

A few observations:

  • Studies show that as little as 5% of employees actually understand the goals they are supposed to pursue. There is a pretty good chance then that your team is not pulling in the same direction.
  • Strong teams require strong individuals. Thomas suggests that every member of a lion pride has a job to do – some protect territory, some chase prey towards other members who go in for the kill. If any one of the team members is weak it automatically causes other team members to mistrust them because they are not helping advance towards the objective.
  • The team must challenge one another in order to make absolutely sure that they trust one another to pursue the goal together.

The conflict comes when the team debates the goal, makes sure they understand it completely and are totally committed to achieving the goal. They also have to challenge one another to bring 100% of themselves to the pursuit of the goal.

By not challenging one another in a work team, it might at first appear that everything is ‘okay’ with the team. In reality a team that loses confidence in itself and what the goal is will also breed mistrust and ultimately performance will suffer.

Putting it into action

  1. Instead of assuming the team understands the goal – clarify it, debate it and ensure complete understanding.
  2. Challenge each member of the team to be the absolute best at what they do and make sure you hire people who can perform to your expectations.
  3. Encourage conflict be having the team challenge one another to be the best they can be.