Conflict Should Not Be Taboo

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In a great post, When Ideas Collide, Don’t Duck, a CEO talks about creating an environment where conflict is seen as a good thing.

As I processed what he discussed regarding conflict, I thought about the number of times I’ve heard players on teams I’ve coached tell me that “everyone gets along” and all of players love one another.  That always makes me nervous.

Here are some red flags to look for regarding team conflict

  • They say there’s no conflict.  Really?  No conflict?  I never believe it and I always try to dig deeper.  Now, if a freshman says it, they may be telling the truth because they don’t know any better.  Everyone else?  They’re telling a version of the truth.  There may be no conflict because they are burying, hiding, or otherwise not addressing conflict.  Avoidance has a limited shelf life.
  • Upperclassmen don’t listen to underclassmen.  I’m not saying that all folks on a team should be equal.  I give a leg up to a person who’s been on a team for a while.  All things being equal, I value an upperclassmen’s opinion a bit more than a newbie just because the older player understands our competition level and what it takes to be successful in our league.  That being said, upperclassmen have to create an environment where the young’uns feel they can approach the oldies but goodies.
  • Everyone’s happy with their role.  Again I say, really?  So I’ve got four point guards or three setters or five goalkeepers…and the folks sitting on the bench are happy there?  Either I’ve recruited the wrong folks or these players aren’t being honest.  Teams are by their nature conflicts of interests.  There is internal competition within a collaborative group.  That alone should initiate conflict.



I’ve written a lot about conflict here and hopefully we all know that we can encourage our teams to embrace conflict as a way to get better.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with conflict…it can actually boost our teams up a level.