Conflict can be constructive or destructive – it depends on you. Essentially, when we react emotionally we go into “fight/flight” mode. Our cognitive brains close down and our genetically programmed survival mechanisms kick-in. In these situations we often find ourselves defending our positions by attacking the other person, or we deal with the situation by completely withdrawing from the conversation. When we go on the attack, more often than not the other party retaliates and the whole situation deteriorates. The literature on high-performing teams and organisations makes it clear that one of the critical factors in effective leadership in high-performing organisations is the regular engagement in constructive conflict.
Constructive conflict explores issues, options and potential solutions. It results in healthy debate and argument. The ability to engage in this level of conflict is a key indicator of high performance. In contrast, the evidence also makes it clear that destructive conflict reduces productivity and creates ‘toxic’ workplaces. Destructive conflict focuses on people rather than issues and inevitably has a negative effect on organisational performance.
The value of becoming “Conflict Competent”
Research identifies that high-performing leaders are highly “conflict competent”. From an organisational perspective, the benefits in creating conflict-competent managers and teams can include:
- ‘Better’ workplaces
- Less stress and reduced sick leave
- Increased productivity and profit
- Less time wasted managing destructive conflict
- Reduced staff turnover (people leave managers, not organisations)
- Increased client satisfaction
The Dynamic Conflict Model
Balanced Curve uses the acclaimed Dynamic Conflict Model developed by Eckerd College in the United States to assist executives and their teams become more collaborative and more effective at managing relationships at work. The Model differentiates between constructive and destructive behaviours. It also divides both types of behaviour into active and passive responses. In essence, it creates four categories of conflict behaviours: Active Constructive, Passive Constructive, Active Destructive, and Passive Destructive.
Conflict management coaching in practice
Mark Rosenberg is trained in the CINERGY Conflict Management Coaching model and draws on this highly acclaimed model during one-on-one conflict coaching sessions.
Balanced Curve also use the Kirton Adaption Innovation Problem Solving Inventory (KAI) together with the Conflict Dynamics Profile to enable managers to gain an insight into their problem-solving style and the way they respond to conflict. The KAI is recognised as one of the world’s leading instruments for measuring ‘thinking’ or ‘problem-solving’ style, while the Conflict Dynamics Profile is acknowledged by experts as the leading instrument of its type in the world for assisting leaders become more aware of their behaviour during conflict.
When used together, these instruments assist managers to gain the insights necessary to develop their skills in managing relationships and crucial conversations. Balanced Curve works with managers in one-on-one coaching sessions to develop their conflict competence. The program uses real-life situations (both past and present) to flesh out insights and learnings, and to develop the capacity to deal with challenging situations. Sessions usually last for between 60-90 minutes.