I have a friend who has had several stints as a head coach. Whenever we would speak, I would inquire how his team was doing. His stock response was, “Good! Everyone is happy.” My friend did not like conflict, wasn’t good with confrontation, and so valued false harmony above all else. It’s not a surprise that his head coaching tenures were relatively short.
High-performing teams are rarely, if ever, in harmony. The quest for constant growth that is the fuel of high performers means continual agitation, disruption, and stress. These are not the conditions for harmony. It is more common in such a system that some individuals become irritated, anxious, or angry, whether with themselves, another, or their situation. Most systems never address this. Moderate to good teams would rather let this sludge run unabated than endure the acute discomfort of addressing it head on. Like my friend, they value false harmony and pretend that everything is hunky dory. That’s why they remain good to mediocre.
High performing teams have a different view. They understand that the quest for excellence produces some toxic by-products and that the best way to preserve and improve performance is to flush them regularly from the system
The good news is that most conflict is just a conversation needing to be had. I believe the key is remembering that “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” (thanks Anais Nin). Learning how someone else is seeing things, then connecting them to the story you are telling yourself about what is going on, is often the elixir to cure conflict.
Make no mistake about it: every leader gets the team they deserve. Value false harmony and that will be demonstrated in your culture and performance. Embrace conflict as a by-product of high performance, create a culture where it gets resolved, and that will be demonstrated in your team’s performance as well. What conversation does your team need to be having? What’s holding them back?