The best results are achieved when everyone has a voice and freedom to debate. Ila and Charles discuss how difficult some people find conflict and debate to be and what we can do to build teams that support productive conflict with trust in service to finding the best solutions and results.
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Charles: Hello. I'm Charles Feltman,
Ila: And my name is , Ila Edgar. And we're here for trust on purpose
Charles: is a podcast focused on all aspects of building trust and maintaining trust, and even when necessary, restoring trust at work.
Charles: today, our topic is trust and the relationship trust has with conflict. in our little prerecording conversation, we talked about one of the things that I think a lot of people are familiar with around the idea of trust and conflict. Is Patrick Lynch's five dysfunctions of a team in which he, makes a great case that, the places teams can go dysfunctional. Or if you wanna look at it in the opposite perspective, the things that can make teams highly functional, it all starts with trust. That's sort of the, foundation, of everything.
Charles: Really. So the way Patrick Lencioni lays it out is that the absence of trust creates the fear of conflict. If you look at it the other way around the presence of trust, strong trust allows people to feel safe. Sufficiently Safed to be uncomfortable for a while. As they hash through things, they have that kind of conflict around ideas that allow them to find the best ideas, which in turn creates commitment. People are committed to what they finally get to after that work, that in turn creates accountability. So people are accountable to each other. for themselves. And that finally produces the kind of results that teams want and companies want to have. So trust is the foundation for ultimately getting great results.
Charles: And those are the kind of steps in between that build on trust. So let's, talk a little bit about, that first connection between conflict and trust. What comes up for you when we think about that a little bit,
Ila: well, immediately if, I don't trust you, it is a full body no that I'm going to engage in any conflict
Ila: period, period. I will withdraw. I will shrink. I will. Acquiesce, I will do whatever it takes because I am not willing to make whatever I care about vulnerable for you to be able to stomp all over it. That is a full body. No, for me. And that, also comes from, my own relationship with conflict conflict was in my growing up years and early on in my career, conflict felt very person. very, very personal. And I had a self doubt about, do I know enough to engage in a productive conversation about this topic?
Ila: And very often I didn't. And so I think maybe then I also didn't have the tools or not just the confidence, but the competence to be able to enter into something that I would assess was a conflict.
Charles: I've certainly been in that position as well. when I have not felt like I really had enough data, enough grounding in the situation, whatever, I didn't feel like I could actually hold up my side of the, the discussion, the debate, and make my points. sufficiently. Well, so I would also often kind of step back from conflict or deflect or some other, thing. your description of that though, reminded me so much of a client that I've had, not long ago, who was in the same boat. he would back away anytime he brought. An idea or wanted to make a request for funding for something or whatever it was having to do with his, department, in meetings with, his vice president and, the other peers, because he he was afraid of that direct conflict.
Charles: And he was afraid as, just as you said, that he would be belittled. by the other people, which they had done in the past. so he said, I hate it. And so what would happen is he would come into the meeting already resigned not to get what he wanted. So even in his presentation, he basically backed away from anything that might produce conflict.
Charles: he'd make a presentation, but he'd make it from a place of resignation to start with, which is not exactly. Mm. Engaging. .
Charles: And it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course. his boss would just say, okay, thank you. Let's move on. And he avoided. There was no conflict there, but he also rarely ever got what he wanted unless his boss also happened to want it as
Ila: same thing.
Charles: So he was uncomfortable with conflict, unable to jump in and really talk about and debate. And it's because he was afraid of the interpersonal conflict. So let's, make that distinction. He was not. Willing to, get into a debate or conflict around ideas, because for him that was conflated with, as you were saying for yourself, Personal or interpersonal conflict that, he felt was, was hurtful, was painful for him when his peers or even his boss sometimes made fun of him, not his idea.
Charles: They made fun of his idea, but they made a really making fun of him or at least that's how he felt it. He took it
Ila: let's add another complexity to this. And it came up with one of my coaching clients actually on Friday morning. this individual, works for a large Canadian government organization and her culture also dictates you do not. oppose. You do not have a difference of opinion that is not proper period.
Ila: And so this shows up not just in her work life, but also in her home life the inability or that cultural influence has basically told her you don't get to have a voice
Charles: and it's because conflict will result if you your mind. And it happens to be a different idea than I have, or the different idea than we have. so all new and different, or, potentially better ideas are off the table.
Charles: which is why as Len points out, if you can't have that kind of debate, that kind of what we call generative or productive conflict, if you can't have that, because it's already off the table, anything that has an opposition in any way to it, then you're never gonna get to the best results or almost.
Ila: I just finished reading the culture. by David Coyle. And he talked about this concept of, how do we get the best possible idea? No one person knows everything about everything. And so where there's opportunity to throw something on the table, pull it apart, pick it to pieces be really in generative or productive conflict allows us to get to the best possible idea or the best possible solution.
Ila: Without it becoming destructive and personal.
Ila: So that's
Ila: what we wanna get to.
Charles: Yes. And that personal or interpersonal destructive conflict drives people right away from, a willingness to, mean, some people love it. They love to squash other people and you know, that's. necessarily what they always wanna do, but there is a, tendency to get something out of that.
Charles: And so they, do it, they do it to, get their way they do it to, just be that way. So stepping back from that, the question that comes up for me is how does a team leader create. The kind of trust that allows people to be uncomfortable as they debate ideas and, you know, really dig in.
Charles: and ideally, I can come with my idea And I can say, here's my idea, team shoot holes. Let's test it out. Think of all the problems that could arise from this, and let's do the same with your idea and your idea. And then as we go through that process. We get to something that can be really solid, but getting through that process. is where people become fearful and back away, if they conflate generative, productive conflict with that interpersonal destructive conflict, that is you described that my client was dealing with that I felt at times.
Charles: so how do we, build that? How does a create the kind of trust that allows people to have productive?
Ila: Hmm, such a good question. I think there's lots of moving pieces here, so I'm sure we'll get to all of them. One of the first ones that kind of sticks out for me and one, maybe this is something that. Definitely appreciate when others do this with me and for me is that they give me a heads up about we're gonna meet on Friday. Here's the purpose and intention of this meeting. We wanna pull it apart. We wanna poke holes in it. We wanna do this. So I'm giving you time and space to think about it and prepare rather than put you on the spot in the meeting. putting me on the spot in the meeting would be again, a withdrawal for me.
Ila: I would have a very hard time. So give me time to chew on percolate. Think about, and giving me the advanced notice is really, really important.
Charles: Yes. And that's true for, probably roughly half the population. I mean, some people thrive on that. Okay. Let's just, I'll engage in the moment, you know, let's just jump in and throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks and what doesn't. And, then there's the other half of the population like you and me to a great extent who says, well, I really need to. I really need to think this through ahead of time, a little bit before I can feel like I can really engage in that, way and in that level. So yes, giving people advanced notice of what it is we're gonna do even before that. One of the things we've talked about in other episodes, is to have some ground rules around how.
Charles: we interact with each other and this team, team agreements we've, talked about. actually talking as a team with how do we want to interact around conflict? how do we want that to sound and feel to each other? What's the value of conflict for us so that when we're in the meeting and we're in the heat of it and, I look over and ICU pulling back.
Charles: I can intervene and say, so Eila what's going on. And you can have a chance to say I'm not, feeling like there's, we've moved away from. talking about ideas and people are starting to make personal attacks on each other or,
Charles: or of course I can directly say that too, because I can probably hear them as a team leader, particularly because this is part of the team leader's role.
Ila: right. I'm giggling a little bit because something I watched on the weekend, talked about having a code word. And so I think it might also be helpful when things are getting super spicy and there needs to be a timeout that in that team agreements, or, how we're gonna do this together, that we have an indicator or a code word that says let's take five, let's pause, come away and then regroup.
Ila: So. I'm giggling because the code word they used in the show was Albuquerque. I know he's like, well, you can't misinterpret Albuquerque. So I'll also, give a Canadian version and the word that comes to mind is with Quin so
Ila: Yeah. There's no, mixing that up with something else, but I think, even a conversation I had this morning with.
Ila: A group of leaders is really how setting things up before they go off the rails. we talked about this saying before, dig the well before you're thirsty. So what are the things that you wanna put in place your team agreements is how we speak to each other, how we hold each other accountable, how we go into conflict together for the sake of why is it important and making sure that you do.
Ila: Before the conflict versus in the middle of the conflict?
Charles: Yes. It's just like talking to a teenager about what they shouldn't be doing. right. When they're doing what they shouldn't be doing, it's never gonna stick. but yeah, I think that's a very, very good point. And again, I think this is one of the places where a team leader, a strong leader, that's part of the role to initiate that agreements conversation and to make sure that agreements around how conflict is handled, how, when there are differences of idea, that's managed one of the things too, that I often see in teams is there are one or two people who are, self appointed in the role of, devil's advocate. Which is a really important role on a team. that role is super valuable. So having a devil's advocate and there I've seen on some well high functioning teams, that that role is more or less assigned to somebody in a, kind of a round Robin basis. So, today I might be the devil's advocate. tomorrow you might be and the whole point of having one is, okay. So let's think of a counter argument
Ila: Yeah. I'm sharing this idea. I'm giving credit. Jenny Gilbert. this is a brilliant idea. she created, Six cards here. So I'm playing with a deck of cards and on the face is actually the team agreements. So it's printed on a sticker. So respect ask rather than tell, focus on the problem, not the person clarify, be specific.
Ila: And so all of these look exactly the same, except one has a blue dot. And so you shuffle the cards. Each person takes a card and whoever gets the blue dot they're playing the role of devil's advocate or spectator's corner.
Ila: And I think, being able to rotate that, but I love the idea that she had of actually having the team agreements printed and visible right there.
Ila: I thought that was a brilliant idea.
Charles: And by the way, That list of team agreements that you just mentioned it sounded like we're directly related to having productive conflict or creating productive conflict? What, so what you wanna just walk through those, because they're, genie Gilbert's, rules of engagement, basically. So would you.
Ila: yeah. So the first one is respect, essential, which I think, when we're talking about setting our team agreements and how we're gonna function, that captures it in a nice nugget, but what does that actually.
Ila: So what are the behaviors that we display with each other to show respect?
Charles: Yeah. And that's a really important conversation around team agreements. So one of those might be, you let the other person finish. another one corollary kind to that is that. some people tend to take the floor and keep it forever unless they're interrupted. And so it's okay for the team leader or maybe someone on the team appointed to do this, or maybe even anybody, but one of the agreements is, oh, Charles , let's give some other people, some air.
Charles: Oh, yeah. Okay. Sorry. You know, it's, I'll back off. So what does respect look like? It might look like, not talking over other people. what else, what else comes to mind that you've seen as.
Ila: I think the one that just popped into my head was when we are engaging in conflict that were present, respect means that we're present, we're committed to this shared outcome. And so. I'm not gonna be texting my BF under the table. I'm not gonna have my laptop open answering emails. I'm actually going to be present because we care about the outcome of this conversation.
Charles: Yeah, that's a beautiful one that has respect for everyone, in the team and engaged in the, conflict, the conversation. so what else does she say?
Ila: do, you know what? I think this is where the code word could come in, actually, when someone is feeling uncomfortable or that the conversation has gotten too spicy, that respect could also be Albuquerque. We need five
Ila: and that people don't dismiss that request, but okay. I hear you let's do that.
Ila: Let's honor that request.
Charles: And another one I think is, that like, based on my client that I was talking about earlier and, and many, many, many others of my clients is, that part of respect is that, you honor other people's ideas, even if you disagree, so you can disagree. and at the same time, honor, the idea rather than, um, as this particular individual and others I've heard rather than making fun of it, belittling it, dissing it in some way.
Charles: and the consequences are especially negative. If the team leader joins in that the team leader's job has to be, if that starts happening to say Uhuh,
Charles: We don't do that here. Remember our agreement, we have an agreement that we don't do that
Charles: need to honor that agreement and show respect to each other by honoring what they have to say. so what else does Jeanie have?
Ila: Ask rather than tell
Charles: Hmm, So what does mean to.
Ila: you. See me giggling. There's, you know, lovely people in our world that know a lot about a lot. so I can visualize a couple of people that I'm holding with total love and affection in my art. They really like to tell they really like to tell. And so what's the beautiful gift that happens when we maybe monitor our ratio of listen to talk. that we learn how to engage in open-ended questions.
Charles: Yeah, well, yes. And so what if I see a flaw in your idea. What I see as a big gaping flaw in your idea. So how do I do that?
Charles: I mean, what would that sound like if I say Isla, that will never work.
Ila: there, and I'm pointing at you, your idea is a big freaking hole in it. This is crazy. That would put me into, I think you're a jerk and now I'm gonna defend. So rather. I'm curious. Can you tell me more? we could pull in a little bit of Brene brown, right?
Ila: Paint the picture, color a little bit more infer information in there for me. I'm not sure. I completely understand. I have a question about this part.
Charles: Yeah It could also sound like, you know, from my perspective, I see a big hole in this idea. Here's what it is. the problem that I see with it. Help me out. what do you see?
Ila: So this is again where, we're not just talking about linguistics here. We're not just talking about words that are coming out of our mouths. And so if we go back to building trust in order to engage in productive conflict, what's the mood or emotion that we're bring. . So if I'm coming from, if this, particular situation we're talking about that there's a hole or a gap in my idea, if you come to me and say, there's a hole or a gap from a place of righteousness or right.
Ila: And you're wrong, I'm gonna sense that versus I hear curiosity, Charles. So yeah, I will absolutely tell me what you see. What's the whole gap that you.
Charles: Which is really interesting to, bring in here because. There are emotions that are productive in a conflict situation. And there are emotions and moods that are destructive in a conflict situation. so not only being aware of the language, we use also being aware of the emotions that were generating that we're projecting that we're speaking from.
Charles: and of course the.
Charles: what body am I speaking from? Am I leaning forward and poking my finger in your direction and saying whatever I'm saying, or am I looking at you with my hands apart in front of me palms up. So tell me, help me out with this or can we talk about this piece of this or even I see this, but I have a suggestion about that that I'd like us to explore.
Ila: Jenny also has this concept of yes. And
Ila: which I think could play perfectly here.
Charles: yeah. Yes, absolutely. there's been two or three times here when I've thought of, improv. So the whole idea of improv is you always say, yes, you take whatever it is and build on it rather than taking whatever it is and, going some, orthogonal direction, away from it.
Charles: so that might also be part of what it sounds like to have respect for the other person, respect for their ideas.
Ila: this is great. And I think this speaks to, what's the intention or what are we trying to achieve in this conversation is focus on the task. problem or challenge rather than the person.
Charles: Yeah, That's the one we began with is if I feel like you're focusing on me and I'm wrong, or your idea, and my idea are in opposition because I'm wrong and you're right. well, I, I'm not gonna pull away actually. I'm probably gonna dig in we'll have a.
Charles: Different kind of a conversation that will not end up with the best idea it'll just end up with, who can throw the most words at it or whatever. yeah,
Charles: that's a good
Ila: Yeah. I really like this next one. It's about clarity. So be specific. and again, I'm pulling Brene brown in and her clear is kind unclear is unkind. And I think it's really easy. even in our, spicy conversations when there is passion around a topic and there is productive conflict, we can still really generate some very ungrounded or less than data specific assessments.
Ila: So be clear on what you're saying. Use data where possible, So, you know, team is always late, isn't clear and it's not kind,
Charles: It may be true, but
Ila: it may be true, but let's say of the last 30 days, your team was late 28 times. So
Ila: there's the data point, right.
Ila: or, you know, your idea is too pie in the sky. Okay, well, tell me what's pie in the sky about it. What
Ila: seems undoable or unachievable?
Ila: Give me those specific.
Charles: Yeah. So that whole phrase pie in the sky is kind of useful. it serves to say, well, I think this is wrong, in a very, what's sort dramatic way, but it won't actually get us anywhere just to simply say pie in the sky or, won't work So getting down to.
Charles: grounded assessments. So grounding our assessments about what's working, what's not working, what could work, why it will, or why it won't et cetera. with data to the greatest extent we can. and if in some cases it's, oh, let's interpolate. This data let's look forward based on this data, how do we think this will.
Charles: But here are the data that we're working with and maybe even stop to agree. are these the data that we're working with or is there something else we need to pull in here?
Ila: that's right. Or here's the data? What are we missing?
Ila: where do we have gaps? and then the last one is observe rather than interpret. .
Ila: Brene Brown's voice is in my head. the story I'm making up is, is so relevant here because again, as humans, we make up story and absence of data.
Ila: So you tell me, my idea is pie in the. I pull some, other experiences you and I have had, and I start to make up a story that you don't think I'm competent or I know what I'm talking about,
Ila: which very likely isn't true. It's just my interpretation,
Charles: Right. And that interpretation takes you to a particular
Ila: which will not allow us to have productive. Because now I'm gonna make sure that I prove you wrong.
Ila: look at how competent right. I can feel my chest is like puffing up. And you know, here's my list of credentials. I am competent. You should listen to me,
Ila: again, doesn't help us with the, conflict, It doesn't
Ila: get us anywhere.
Charles: right. So these are great. And thanks to Jeanie Gilbert. putting these forward. These are great, agreements around having conflict and, being successful in creating something out of that conflict or generating something the best or the most useful thing. Given the current data, given where we're all coming from.
Charles: And so it will help us trust each other. If we actually stick to this will help us trust that we all. On the same page with this
Ila: You, just said something that I think is actually really interesting for us to touch on as well is given the data that we have right now. So a team could spend however, amount of time in productive conflict, pulling things apart and coming away. Here's the plan or here's our next step. A week later, we get new data points, things may change.
Ila: And I'm thinking of a particular client that would probably put that person in a, what the hell are you talking about? We decided this last week, look at all the time energy effort we spent on coming to a solution. And now you're telling me we're changing. so I think that there's also an invitation and a, I don't know, does it stay on the, team norms or the agreements about when and if there's new data that we can come and revisit and tweak is necessary.
Ila: So is it a permission piece? Is it a help me out
Charles: It's a requirement. And from my perspective, if there's new data that, is different from what we worked with before, or that creates some, new issue or concern or problem or opportunity, incumbent on us to now bring those data in and work with them.
Charles: I will forget. one company, I worked for some of the, networking products that we developed, we developed for the us federal government. and, we had to have. Very specific specs for what we were doing, the products that we were gonna sell to them.
Charles: that was easy enough to do, but the whole then process of getting that accepted could be a year or two long. And in that era two, the technology has gone forward by leaps and bounds, but now that government entity. Feel it is because of the way they structured things is bound to purchasing something that is way outmoded. And so they were unable to take a look at new data because of their processes.
Charles: they were unable to even take a look at new data about technologies available that would've made. What they ultimately bought much more useful for them and less expensive, because of their particular processes.
Charles: And I've seen that happen in private sector companies too.
Charles: so one of the things about that very specific process. it came out of having rules and regulations, right. And rules and regulations, are to some degree in place because there isn't sufficient trust or because we don't believe that we can trust each other.
Charles: So we'll just put a rule or a regulation here. so we don't have to worry about it rather than. Building trust, interpersonal trust trust across the team trust through the organization, we put a rule in place. We put a procedure in place to guarantee more or less that we get a particular outcome.
Charles: And so often that gets outmoded very quickly.
Ila: Yeah. Wow.
Charles: it solves the conflict issue. Right. because we just do these things and we do these things over and over and over again. and until we run into a wall of, oh, we don't have the right stuff here, we're not cutting it. and so actually building trust, especially on teams.
Charles: having a list of, team agreements and recognizing even that those may need to change from time to time. So going back and revisiting them on a regular basis and saying, are they still working for us?
Ila: Right, As you talk about this process, I immediately also thought about. Cultures or organizations where people are encouraged to make sure they're ticking all the boxes. And at some point the boxes don't make sense anymore. And so do we have, and have we created the ability, the trust, potentially psychological safety to say so I'm not sure this works anymore.
Ila: So maybe not even stepping into productive conflict, but even voicing. I'm not sure about this. Does this actually work and help us get to where we need to be? Or is this now producing a barrier or an obstacle? yeah.
Charles: going back again to Len's model and what you and I know intuitively, and, from our experience over years of working with people and teams, trust is the foundation and it's the foundation. For many things, but one in particular is having productive, generative conflict. That gets us to the best possible idea, the best possible direction, the best possible solution.
Charles: because we can really debate, take a look at tear apart, shoot holes in and then repair or, learn from, okay. there's a big hole right there. Okay. Let's figure out how to fix that. and when we do that and get to the other side, then we have. Much stronger commitment to what we got to, without the ability to have that kind of conflict. different people, leave saying, we came to an agreement around something, but I don't really like it. I don't think it's gonna work. well, why not? Well, because we didn't really explore it thoroughly. well, why not? Well, because they didn't object to, or bring up problems with the idea?
Charles: Well, why not? Why didn't you? Well, I didn't want to get into a conflict situation.
Charles: So having that trust so that I could feel like I could jump in and say, wait a minute.
Ila: I just looked at this page 180 8 in Patrick Lindsay on these book, the five dysfunctions of a team. And it says here, where there's this fear of conflict. They resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments. And I. Maybe, this is how I want to wrap up our conversation. Today is as an individual, as part of a team, if you're a leader, even in your family unit, your friends and family, where are you guarded in your comments and that youve discussions and that they're not transparent and authentic.
Ila: And just start to notice where that's showing up from a place of curiosity Not saying you have to jump into productive conflict right away, but start to notice how your conversations may be veiled and guarded
Charles: Yes. Reminds me of, floes and Solomon's, term, cordial hypocrisy.
Charles: where do you notice that showing up? That's the place you need to do some work trust building work very specifically and in the domain of care, in the domain of sincerity, perhaps in the domain of competence and setting standards around that and in the domain of reliability and of actually making clear and complete requests, commitments, and holding each other accountable around that. So, yes, thank you for this one, because I think this is a really important piece for teams and I've seen many teams, really bang their shins on this lack of trust that in turn creates a fear of conflict and then, all the way up the pyramid to, inattention to results. I think we've covered some very important pieces here.
Charles: And thank you for
Charles: this conversation.
Ila: Yeah. Thank you too.
Charles: hope. All of you listeners have also gotten something of value and we look forward to, hearing from you. we would love to hear about the challenges and issues that you're facing around trust, trust, building, conflict teams, et cetera. have an opportunity to take a look see where we might be able to bring some value to, bring some different perspectives around trust building.
Charles: so. Yes. We'd encourage you to, get in touch Charles insight, coaching.com.
Ila: Orla I L a big change inc.com.
Ila: Thank you for a wonderful conversation, Charles.
Charles: You're very welcome. Thank you.
Ila: We'll see you next time.