Effective teams are critical to the success of a business, and it starts at the very top of your company with the executive leaders. Yet, the C-suite can be a place where competing priorities and power dynamics cause harmful conflict.
According to research published by three professors from Standard Graduate School of Business, the Booth School of Business and Melbourne Business School, those teams you expect to be the best, like your executive teams, can actually be less effective than those lower down the organizational chart.
Team ineffectiveness is typically the result of conflict stemming from executives’ attempts to maintain or grow their influence and prioritize their own objectives over those of their executive colleagues. And, as in any team, differing personalities can make misaligned priorities and political jockeying even more pronounced.
Conflict is a natural part of business. What is not necessarily “natural” is conflict management, or taking disagreement and using it to increase team productivity and performance. The ability to use discord for good often alludes teams, making it difficult to perform.
How can you manage conflict within your executive team? Try these six tips as a collective.
1. Set a clear vision and goals for the executive team.
Leaders should have a common purpose to drive prioritization. When you align your team to a clearly established vision that articulates the company’s future and a set of objectives for the collective group, it is easier for each executive to focus on increasing team productivity within the C-Suite rather than their personal or departmental priorities.
Repeat your executive team vision and goals in every meeting. Conflict can arise because team members revert to individual department goals when they are not consistently reminded of the collective focus.
2. Clarify roles and responsibilities.
If you want to help your team become more productive, establish clear roles and responsibilities. Help each team member understand their accountabilities, how they will support the executive team and contribute to the common objectives.
3. Establish shared decision-making.
To help eliminate finger pointing and reduce unproductive conflict, focus on shared decision-making. All executives should feel comfortable expressing their opinions. However, once a choice has been made by the team, all executive team members need to collectively own the decision and the outcomes.
4. Help team members understand each other’s working style.
Often, conflict arises simply because people do not know how to work with each other. Using tools like the Emergenetics® Profile can help teammates understand how they each prefer to think and behave. In doing so, your C-Suite can begin to recognize areas of similarity and difference. This understanding allows them to take the emotion out of differing work styles so that conflict becomes less personal and simply an expression of preference.
5. Encourage team members to lean into each other’s strengths.
Some of your executive team’s strengths come from experience with past job roles or at previous companies. Other strengths are innate like a knack for coming up with intuitive, visionary ideas or creating order out of chaos. These inherent strengths can be revealed by the Emergenetics Profile. By demonstrating the gifts of each C-Suite member and encouraging them to utilize their collective cognitive diversity, you can minimize conflict and increase productivity.
6. Create a culture of respect.
Conflict can be productive; however, without respect, you will have difficulty turning discord into productivity. To establish a respectful culture host an Emergenetics Executive Session to help team members understand each other’s thinking and behavioral preferences, discover how to best work together and learn to apply their strengths to achieve team goals. By understanding each teammate, your executives build a culture that respects differences rather than allows differences to stymie them – and this respect will begin to permeate all layers of your organization.
To improve your own conflict management skills, here are a few tips I encourage you to consider:
1. What are the facts?
One conflict management technique is to remind yourself of the facts behind a situation. When you find yourself in a disagreement, consider what is factual and what may be an opinion. This tactic will help remove the emotion from conflict.
2. What are my assumptions?
When you find yourself in conflict, ask yourself what beliefs or presuppositions may impact your reaction. Consider your Emergenetics Profile. It can be easy to forget to think outside of our preferred ways of thinking and behaving. What assumptions might you be bringing to this conversation, and how can you manage them?
3. How can we solve this problem together?
This question connects to the concept of shared decision-making. Instead of pointing fingers when you find yourself in conflict, reframe the conversation to consider how you can both solve the problem and lean on each other’s strengths and perspectives to work together towards a solution.
Conflict management is an essential skill for executives, and leaders need to be open to viewpoints that differ from their own in order to harness the power of cognitive diversity that exist in their workplaces.
When you focus on building an aligned executive team that appreciates each other’s perspectives and respectfully manages conflict, you will discover how to increase productivity in your executive team.
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