Why healthy conflict is important in both business and athletics

Healthy conflict occurs when members of a team share their ideas on the best way to solve a challenge.  This can be anything from developing a new team culture and the standards of behavior associated with that culture to the type of event to have for the end of year party.  The critical piece is that there is a respect of other team members’ opinions and the focus is on trying to find the best possible answer (Lencioni, 2013).  In order for team members to have healthy conflict, they must trust the other members of their team and feel comfortable that their opinions will be valued and considered.

There are several positive benefits to a team when healthy conflict occurs.  The first is that individuals are more likely to buy-in to the ultimate decision because they had the opportunity to be a part of the discussion and provide their opinion.  In Lencioni’s (2013) 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, he said “When people don’t weigh-in, they don’t buy-in”.  Another benefit is that the team is able to get a variety of different opinions and viewpoints which will ultimately lead to the best decision.  If individuals don’t feel comfortable sharing their opinion and engaging in healthy conflict, a great idea that would be beneficial for the whole team will likely get missed.

In comparison, unhealthy conflict occurs when people view the outcome in terms of winners and losers (Brown, 2013).  The ultimate goal of finding the best solution is outweighed by high emotions, defensiveness, and try to get their voice heard.  Unhealthy conflict is marked by critical statements against others, attempts to undermine solutions proposed by team members, defensive stances of their own ideas with an unwillingness to be open to others’ ideas (Brown, 2013). This type of behavior and conflict can obviously be detrimental to a team.

As a business leader or coach, you have the ability to set grounds rules or standards of behavior for the team as to what is acceptable within your team culture. A standard of behavior would be having respect for others and willingness to listen to others ideas.  As part of the team meetings, you can facilitate healthy conflict by leading discussion and seeking feedback on various aspects of team business.  Most importantly, you have the opportunity to lead by example.  Providing a good model is a great way for your team members see how healthy conflict can lead to positive benefits for the team.  When you observe unhealthy conflict within the team, as their leader, you can help them reframe their statements and lead the discussion to promote healthy conversation and conflict.



Brown, D. M. (2013). Designing together: the collaboration and conflict management handbook for creative professionals. Berkeley (California): New Riders.

Lencioni, P. [Jon T]. (2013, July 9). Patrick Lencioni – The 5 dysfunctions of a team. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://.www.youtube.com/watch?v=inftqUOLFaM

By |2018-09-29T21:34:33+00:00July 2nd, 2015|Coaching, Corporate|0 Comments

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