No Conflict

Cover of "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team...
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In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni explains that trust solicits vulnerability, so that when you arrive at conflict, you can have conflicting ideological ideas comfortably because you’ve exposed that vulnerability.

When discussing trust, he routinely explains we misunderstand trust. We interpret trust to mean a prediction of past habits. So, when we “trust” someone to do something excellently, it’s because they’ve performed above par in the past. This is a mistake because people change and no one is perfect. People get busy, they get sick, they get older and their minds change – so expecting someone to, for example, run a 5 minute mile their entire lives because they’ve done it before is an incorrect assumption. Yet, that’s how we (collectively) define trust. “John always runs a five minute mile, so he will again today.” Well, he might, and he might not. He might do better, he might do worse. What if he sprained his ankle the day before? He might limp a long and be doing well do get a 9 minute mile!

So, we misinterpret trust to mean a prediction of outcomes. When shifted to ourselves, that means, we feel we are to be expected to behave as past performance dictated. That means, there could be no room for mistakes. If there is no room for mistakes, people feel pressure to NOT own up to their mistakes. They are not willing to be vulnerable. Past history, say at a job, could show that if one made too many mistakes they would get fired. What is too many? What’s the measure? What’s the standard? Perhaps it’s not clearly outlined or dictated (later dysfunctions of accountability and attention to results). There is an underlying fear that if one makes a mistake they will get fired. So, we refuse to be vulnerable and open up to the mistakes we make because our job or really neat volunteer-project-and-resume-builder could be on the line.

Rollin said to me, “A manager has the power to make a bad employee good and a good employee bad.” The example he used was of an Olympic Chef for the 1996 Olympics. There were two line cooks who got in a knife fight. Instead of firing them, as would the gut reaction be of many, he worked with them through the conflict and they became star line cooks.

Life happens. We get busy. We get interrupted. We can’t always perform to our desires. We often under-bill how long a task will take, so disappointment mounts when it takes two or three times longer than our miscalculation. We make mistakes. And, then, we fear to own up to them to really solve problems and figure out what’s going on.

So, what? The deadline is missed. Will it matter in 100 years? Likely not. Sure, it matters to you because you have integrity. And, that’s great. Maybe we set the bar too high. And, you know what, that’s okay. What’s not okay is setting ourselves up for failure. What’s not okay is saying something needs to be done two weeks before a meeting when you know you can’t do it. Sure, that’s a great ideal to work towards, but making it a hard and fast rule sets you up for failure and repeats the cycle of negativity.

Martin Luther King Jr. liked to say that the method to the means mattered. That is a bad means makes a bad end. So, if we want a good end, we need a good means. A pathway to failure is, in my opinion, a bad means. Not recognizing disagreement and forging ahead is, in my opinion, a bad means.Recognizing mistakes and learning from them, in my opinion, is a good means. It gives you the strength to really build on the shoulders of giants and improve for good – through healthy and healthful conflict.

I hope we can do this.

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