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If you’ve read Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, you’ll know that one of the things that really weakens a team/work group/etc is the INABILITY to conflict well because the best ideas are refined in the furnace of debate and disagreement.  I saw this first hand this week.

I was added to this team, no choice of my own, no option to not work with them, it was just assigned, and I had to go with it.  I don’t want to paint a bad picture because I was actually excited to work with at least a couple of the people in the group, so I was not terribly worried.  So, we were assigned the task of figuring out how Company X can get their current clientele to buy more…increasing sales to current customers, in essence.

One thing you need to know is that we work in teams a ton here.  You’re always on at least one team, and this week has not been a good one for teams. As they’ve presented findings and ideas in front of everyone else, I watched as ideas were destroyed, findings were blown-up, and suggestions were shot down at an alarming rate.  It was a week of poor THINKING.  There were so many holes in these ideas.  Bad ideas were contagious. 

It culminated in watching a team present just before my team was set to pitch our ideas get totally dismantled.  Everyone in the room, including them, knew they were sunk.  It was a little sad (and man have I been there) to watch them argue for a point that they no longer believed in because it’s dead on the floor.  Finally, they resulted to just feigning non-understanding of the hard questions being put to them (again, I’m guilty of this as well).

So, our team got up, presented, answered questions, gave answers to hard questions put to us, and sat down.  It was pretty glorious.  No big round of applause…we did what we were supposed to do.  We presented a thorough, logical, workable idea that could handle a little prodding.  But, the thing is that we aren’t any smarter than the other teams, but one thing we did well this week was conflict.  We challenged each others thoughts, pointed out weak points, called out bad logic, and even had to basically tell one team member that they were off their game this week.  We all have one of those.  I tell you this, I wasn’t driving the good conflict.  Some weeks I do, but not always.  I can’t take credit here.

We had one member who had put a ton of thought into our assignment.  He had come with a list of 20 ideas he had brain stormed on his own.  We shot down 19 of them!  But, he didn’t mind…it was part of the process.  Afterwards, he said, “I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my straight talk!”  Ha!  We should have been saying that to him.  So, that’s how the week started, and it was an awesome start.  He got us all thinking.  Yes, thinking critically, but also creatively.  If I don’t like that idea, how can I improve it. 

Another member was on his game calling out weak arguments and anytime we wandered off topic.  I learned a good deal from him this week.  I felt like I really was the communication hub on this one, serving perhaps as a cushion, but also as a spring board between disagreements.  Smoothing rough edges and bringing contrast to fuzzy thinking.  We all critiqued.  We all tore into each other.  Was it tense now and then, you betcha, Iris!  But, in the end, we had an idea that no one was able to dismantle.  It was a great THINKING experience.