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November 27, 2017

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Conflict. Really?

May 9, 2016

I’ve been seeing lots of posts regarding how we should be prepared for, expect & accept that conflict in a high performing team is normal & even encouraged to ensure that team wins.

 

I’m just curious, what are people’s definition of conflict?

 

I’m aware of the definition in the dictionary. The first thing you see if you type in ‘Definition of Conflict’ into google is ‘A serious disagreement’.

 

So, for a team to succeed we should encourage serious disagreements & then we’ll be winners….? Really?

Over the years I’ve worked in many teams, many of them were high performers, we had stars & we had warriors. We worked together, played our part, delighted our customers & we respected each other. No serious disagreements. No shouting. No 1 person telling another person that they were underperforming or delivering an unacceptable performance. Just in case you were wondering, yes I have the accolades & the trophies to back it up.

 

Back in the 80’s I saw many ‘senior managers’ who felt that they could be assertive & would often use the term “when I say jump”… you know that one right? I must confess I hadn’t heard it repeated for a long, long time until very recently but I’ll come to that later.

 

 

I have a challenge to any of these Directors & Regional Managers who say that conflict is acceptable & that passive behaviour is the signature of failure or that really wonderful term mediocrity. Let’s spend 4 weeks of your time in a store, any store where you take off your flash suit, pop on the Company uniform & sell, interact and deliver customer service. You play the same role as your team members, those are the ones you are telling to have serious disagreements with just in case, day in day out for 4 weeks. At the end of those 4 weeks tell me that your success was delivered by being embroiled in disagreements with your peers or due to the fact team work was embraced, integrity was displayed by everyone, encouragement given when they could see you were having a tough time, help given when a customer was foaming at the mouth & success shared when customers left the store with a purchase, waving them off as you help them to their car.

 

You see I’ve seen what conflict does when it’s driven by the top. It excuses bad behaviour, aggression & underhand behaviours that any credible HR function would lose sleep over. I’ve seen a Managing Director give feedback to an RGM in a store during a visit. ‘You’re too passive, when they see you walk in they should drop everything & come to your side. When you say jump they say how high, there needs to be fear in their eyes’. There I was, transferred back to 1988 but no, it was 2016. Of course it got better, the advice given was greeted with ‘er… OK’

 

My point is that, in my humble opinion, any high performer recognises the value other team members bring to the day. I’m not suggesting for 1 second poor performance should be accepted however I am saying that I don’t believe that anyone, anyone comes to work with the distinct motivation of performing badly. They understand that certain areas of the business have to be taken care of that allows them the space to be a ‘High Performer’.

 

What I’m trying to say is that as with all things sales people & techniques evolve over time, just the way your fashionable suits do. The difficulty is that understanding the context of a 40 hour week on a shop floor is best run by bullies & tyrants who think they can do or say anything under the banner that it’s just healthy competition is wrong. Very wrong. People see & view things differently, as a manager or leader it's your responsibility to understand & find the best way to engage each member of your team. 

 

Teams engage, they socialise, they support, they encourage, they challenge. They are assertive but they are supportive too. Above all else they trust each other to be honest in the way they communicate. I love being part of a sales team, I’ve done it all my life. And very well too I might add

 

I will never accept that conflict is needed in sales or any other environment for that matter. Any one that does, well I hope your suit fits well. 

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