I recently read an article about teams and some common misperceptions about teams. The article (http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/06/six-common-misperceptions-abou/) suggested things like adding new blood to a team doesn’t necessarily add anything at all – a team that stays together does well together; smaller groups tend to make stronger teams because people don’t get lost in the shuffle; in the age of technology it is still very important to see each other face-to-face; and, that leaders are an important component to the team, but not the MOST important. The leader must create a culture that allows the team to lead themselves.

Most of that wasn’t earth shattering (or even new) news. The one that that really stuck out for me though had to do with conflict. The article suggested that if a team is too harmonious the members might be missing out on creative solutions to problems. Conflict that happens within a group that is well managed; has a clear understanding of goals and objectives; and, is able to focus disagreements on work related issues tends to actually be much more productive than a group that has very little conflict. In our workshops we are often trying to maneuver participants towards thinking of conflict as opportunity, growth, or progress.

So, probably the bigger issue is being able to actually focus those disagreements on work instead of making them personal. Perhaps it is easier said than done, but it does come down to a key factor that The Mandt System addresses in Chapter 1 – Building Healthy Relationships. We all have to get much better at affirming our emotions and choosing our behavior. Team members take great pride in the work that we do and even disagreements about work can feel like personal attacks. It is important to remember the positives aspects of conflict (resolution of and clarification of issues, win-win outcomes, open communication) while trying to navigate the potentially rough waters of the conflict. Effective teams have developed ways of pushing each other, respectfully, toward the goals while managing the inevitable conflicts along the way.

Also, it seems fitting to write about conflict on the birthday of Nelson Mandela: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Go make a difference!

Nikki Wince – Faculty Supervisor