Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Got called by one of my employees on Avoiding Productive Conflict

I had a one-on-one meeting this morning with one of my reports. He was expressing some frustration about working with one of the other team members. He also was concerned that his ideas were being ignored. As we discussed it he said that I tend to side with another team member most of the time, and that has discouraged him from raising issues.

I thanked him for calling me out on it. I said I was really pleased to see him do that--it's tough to tell your boss that he's doing something wrong. I complimented his courage to bring it up directly with me. This is a good example of my own tendency to prefer harmony over productive conflict, the fourth of the Five Temptations of the CEO.

He is pretty conflict averse himself, and not very verbally articulate (he needs time to think before he can express himself clearly), so he is not naturally inclined to push his ideas in meetings. We talked about various ways to handle that. I suggested that he write up his ideas and come talk with me directly. Then after he and I have had a chance to discuss the ideas and flesh them out, he could raise them in the larger group.

I was really pleased, both with him for being willing to take the risk he took, and with myself for creating a team environment in which he felt safe enough to take the risk.

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