Cause [Constructive] Conflict

12 February 2020

Patrick Lencioni’s conflict continuum extends from artificial harmony through to mean spirited conflict.  Constructive conflict leads to a range of business benefits including: innovative outcomes; better decision making; greater engagement.

How can you foster the constructive conflict “sweet spot” along this continuum?

Start with mindset THEN skills.


  • Recognise that conflict is normal (know your default approach) – get comfortably uncomfortable (reframe it – call it something different e.g. test and challenge conversation)
  • Feed your growth mindset (e.g. embrace failure; acknowledge others ideas)
  • Change the semantics  (ie. See the person you are disagreeing with not as an opponent but someone with a different idea)
  • Don’t take things personally (it is not ALL about YOU)
  • Let go of needing to be liked
  • Don’t equate disagreement with unkindness.
  • Create “space” between the stimuli and your response (to do this well you need to know your triggers)


  • Breathe – 4 + 4 + 4
  • Mindfully listen
  • Call for an opposing view
  • Ask quality questions
  • Ask specific people for their input
  • Watch your “buts” e.g. I agree with you but (the other person hears  “but here is why you are wrong”
  • Set rules [time; approach (e.g. respectful communications)
  • Seek feedback
  • Take on the role of devil’s advocate (but tell people first)
  • Adapt your communication style
  • Notice your body language
  • Focus on one issue at a time
  • Withhold judgement
  • Rely on data (takes the emotion out of it)
  • Use detailed specific language vs generalizations
  • Seek understanding not absolute agreement
  • Be Humble – admit when you are wrong/if someone has a better idea than you
  • Set ground rules around dissension
  • Assign different roles in team e.g. someone looks at the scenario from the customers sided or GM or Constituent Councils or employees
  • Use agreement techniques (use a hand as a likert scale) or scoring techniques (e.g. thumbs up/down)

Brad Bevan

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