How to Make Sure Your Team Engages in Constructive Conflict

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Getting Team Members to Engage in Constructive Conflict is Critical to Getting the Best Ideas.

It’s no secret that your team will come up with the best ideas when they engage in spirited debate.  The challenge is that too often teams play ‘nice’ and do not always speak up when they have divergent views. Or perhaps they do speak up, just not in a constructive way, and this can lead to even less participation from other team members in the future.

Working in a remote environment only makes this predicament worse as team members cannot ‘see’ the verbal clues from their peers – clues that might encourage them to speak up. To make matters worse, it is easier for more outspoken team members to dominate the conversation.

How to encourage conflict

What we need is a simple way to break this pattern of interaction with the team. A way to encourage conflict in a constructive way. One that can even work in a remote environment.

Want better ideas from your team? Follow this simple process:

In order to encourage dialogue in an honest and constructive way we suggest taking a lesson from history. In the early 16th century the Catholic Church began appointing a ‘devil’s advocate’ to argue against the canonization of a candidate for sainthood. It was this person’s job to take a skeptical view in order to promote debate. It is important to note that their actual views were irrelevant to the role they were asked to play.

Since many team members may be reluctant to voice their concerns or viewpoints, appointing a devil’s advocate provides two important benefits:

  1. It immediately causes at least one member of the team to have to argue against a particular course of action.
  2. Since at least one member of the team is thinking both critically and skeptically – it opens the door for other team members to add opinions that may have been difficult to voice otherwise.

Our recommendation is that you rotate the role of devil’s advocate rather than allowing one person to assume to the role permanently. This will ensure that each team member is forced to develop their critical thinking skills and presentation skills. It also ensures a diversity of opinion and insight is promoted within the team.

Here is the process we recommend that you follow:

  1. Identify an issue or a project that there are – or there should be – different viewpoints on.
  2. Identify an individual that has either an interest or knowledge in the subject matter to be discussed, or perhaps you just want to get them involved.
  3. Reach out to the team member you have identified and let them know that you would like them to play the role of devil’s advocate. Giving this individual enough advance notice of their role should improve the quality and clarity of their arguments.
  4. Brief the team ahead of time on your plan to encourage critical thinking by utilizing a devil’s advocate. Introduce who will be playing the devil’s advocate role. Encourage team members to forward any ideas that would help their team member playing the devil’s advocate prepare for the discussion.
  5. When the day of the meeting (whether remote or not) arrives, make sure you remind the entire team of the process you are using. Introduce the devil’s advocate to the team and make sure everyone understands their role. While the devil’s advocate’s role is to be skeptical, other team members are always welcome to chime in on any side of the discussion.
  6. After the discussion is over, be sure to conduct an After Action Review. Ask team members for feedback on what worked well and what could be done better next time. In fact, the team could provide feedback to the devil’s advocate on their performance afterward. This would serve as insight to all team members on how to prepare for future assignments when they are asked to be the devil’s advocate.

That’s it. Oh, except for one thing. What about the naturally argumentative team member? We do not recommend allowing them to take a point of view that they agree with. Make sure that you assign them a role where they have to defend against their actual view point. This will cause them to be a little less passionate and perhaps more thoughtful in the way that they engage with the team.

This post is an adaptation of a insight that I first gained from “To Foster Innovation, Cultivate a Culture of Intellectual Bravery,” by Timothy R. Clark.

Want To Accelerate Progress? Quit Setting Goals!

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Let’s Be Honest: The Planning Process Is Broken!

You know it is true. We set annual goals – all too often at the urging of our company or our manager. We know it is a fruitless exercise. A waste of time.

But we have to have goals don’t we? How would we measure our progress? How would we know if we were winning? How would we know who the top performers are? How would we set budgets?

In all honesty it is not the goals that are the issue. It’s when and how we set them.

Download the Quarterly Objectives Planning Guide and Template Now!

Frustrated Manager

Why Are We Preoccupied With The Year as a Planning Time Frame?

For as long as anyone can remember we have set annual goals. I suppose there used to be many good reasons for this, not the least of which was that the system that we operated in was pretty stable. Not much really changed over the course of a year. However, I am sure you would agree that is not the case today!

I don’t just mean in this COVID-19 Pandemic Adjusted Reality we find ourselves in. I mean: Has it been true for the last few years? I don’t think it has. Most people realize that change is accelerating – and we can only assume that it will continue to do so from this point forward.

The critical weakness of annual goals is that they are measured over – you guessed it – a year. There are too many problems with this to list them all here, but let’s just spin through the top 3:

  1. It is almost impossible to foresee the circumstances that will exist over the next 12 months. 2020 is perhaps a exaggerated example of this fact, however even in a ‘normal’ year annual goals are set and largely ignored until the following year’s planning process begins.
  2. Annual goals may inspire some people, however they lull many of us into a false sense of security that there is time to waste. That we have time to work on goals ‘later’ – after all we have a year.
  3. Annual goals are too often connected to compensation. You rolled your eyes didn’t you? Of course they have to be connected to compensation – don’t they? Well, no they don’t. Not if you even remotely believe that problems #1 and #2 are true. In addition, too often managers review an employee’s goals for the first time in a year when they are conducting their annual performance review. No wonder the annual performance review is reviled by managers and employees alike.

Great. Annual Goals Stink. So What Do We Do Now?

Many organizations have already moved away from annual budgets to 18 month rolling forecasts. They have recognized that locking employees and organizations into arbitrary 12 month financial budgets makes no sense at all. Instead they have a rolling 18 month forecast they they revisit for accuracy and adjustment every quarter.

It’s time to do the same thing for employee goals. Why can’t we set goals for the next quarter? In fact this is likely the best year EVER to try this! Does anyone anywhere really think that goals set at the end of 2019 have any relevance to what is happening now? And here’s the great thing: You don’t have to ask for permission. You don’t have to change the structure (yet) of your company’s goal setting or compensation structure. You don’t have to sell it to your employees as ‘how your bonus will be calculated’. You can just tell your employees that a lot has changed, and you want them to not only have as good as possible next quarter – you want to help them position themselves for success in 2021.

Stop Setting Annual Goals: Set Quarterly Objectives Quarterly Objectives Planning Guide & Template

Before you even think about doing this with an employee, make sure you do this exercise yourself. In that way you will understand the process better and will be able to explain it to your people – perhaps even give examples of what your objectives are.

We have provided you with a planning template here. Here are some thought starters to get you thinking about what some ‘good’ objectives would be for the next quarter:

  • Based on what we know today, what is a reasonable objective in terms of performance for the next quarter?
  • How should we measure performance? Based on the current operating reality, is it more reasonable to measure behaviors or output?
  • What skills, behaviors and/or attitudes could you develop or reinforce over the next quarter?
  • What team goals are critical to the success of the business? How could we measure the team’s progress?
  • What significant learning(s) would accelerate progress in the next quarter?

We have provided you with a planning template here.

In our next post we will share with you some additional ideas on how to break Quarterly Objectives into manageable chunks.

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Don’t Compromise and Stagnate For the Rest of 2020.

Don’t let this the last quarter of the year be a waiting game for next year. Let’s not waste this quarter. Let’s invest it in making the quarters that follow all they can be – and more!

Do You Need Charisma To Be An Effective Leader?

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Is charisma necessary to be a truly effective leader? We would argue it is critical if you wish to reach your full leadership potential.

And yet many leaders feel that they are not charismatic. Too often we confuse manipulative charisma with true charisma. Some people may have a sort of natural charisma – however they have never worked at developing the character of their leadership – and so there is nothing there to maintain the attention of anyone once they get close. These individuals come across as manipulative once you get to know them.

The good news is that true charisma can be developed. In this Insight we show you four steps you can take to attract others to yourself and your cause.
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Leaders tell us that what frustrates them the most is having the same problems day after day

The LeaderShift Framework helps leaders move past those problems so they can experience the success they truly desire.

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Have you ever hired an employee and it didn’t work out? Do this NOW to make sure it never happens again!

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If you have ever hired an employee and a different person showed up than the one you interviewed, then this Insight is for you. I mean – not really a different person. They looked like the same person, however they did not ACT the way they said they would while being interviewed.

While it is easy to blame a lack of honesty in the interview process – there may be a deeper challenge at play here.


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What do you do with emotionally charged situations with your team?

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When emotions run high your team may approach you to discuss their frustrations with other team members. What you do next will either reinforce your position of leadership or undermine it.

Too often leaders commit one of the cardinal sins of leadership in this situation. In this Insight we will share this error – and how to avoid it while ensuring you help your whole team deal with the negative emotions that are being surfaced.

If you get this wrong you will alienate one part of your team – or in the worse case scenario – both parts of your team.


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Is it possible you have a problem with your team that you are unaware of?

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Teams are under more pressure than ever – and if you are not careful factions can easily emerge – undermining team effectiveness. Perhaps you have seen this occurring in your team. Or maybe it is happening and you are unaware of it. In times like these some team members will  become frustrated with their peers, and then reach out to individuals who see the situation much the same as they do. These factions are talking, but only to team members that see the problem the way they do.

In normal times these team struggles would be more visible – and more easily addressed  – as we would be working in the same physical space.

In this Insight, we will share with you why this is happening, why it is completely predictable, where the factions will develop, and what you must do about it as a leader.


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How do you help your employees change their habits?

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Your current level of success is directly tied to your current habits. So, it makes sense that if you would like to enjoy more success it will require you to acquire new habits.

Most of the time leaders not only struggle with changing their own habits, they also struggle with changing the habits of the employees whose results they are responsible for. Changing habits is instrumental to helping your employees achieve their full potential – and yet it is incredibly hard to do.

In this Insight, we will share with you the process you must use if you seek to change any habit permanently, and also the most common mistakes leaders make when they undertake habit change.


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What can you learn about leadership from your alarm clock?

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I know what you’re thinking. What could an alarm clock possibly have to do with Leadership?

And yet, the alarm clock, and more specifically the way we interact with it is a perfect analogy for the way that the human mind works.

Once you grasp this simple truth you will be on your way to changing any result you desire to change in your own life – and you will also be able to start bridging that gap for the people you manage. Leadershift Online

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How Do You Know If You Are An Effective Leader?

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It is more important than ever to be able to lead effectively. And yet, one of the hardest skills to self assess is leadership.

How do you know if you are leading effectively? Well it turns out that your people will tell you if you just ask.

No – I am not suggesting you literally ask them if you are an effective leader. It would be a rare employee that would be willing to answer that you are not. 🙂

As it turns out, it is easy to know whether you need to improve your leadership skill. You just have to ask them the right questions.

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How To Lead in Times of Unprecedented Uncertainty and Challenge

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In times of crisis your people need steady leadership more than ever. But how do you lead when you yourself are unsure of exactly what the next month or week might bring?

In this week’s insight we share with you a simple way to understand your natural reaction to times of crisis, and how to make sure that you are giving very member of your team the leadership they need.

We will also show you the most common mistake leaders make when try to encourage their team in times of crisis.

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