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The Second Behavior of a Cohesive Team: Mastering Conflict

Alice Dendinger | October 28, 2015 | Communication, Conflict Mastery, DISC, Featured, Teamwork

Five Behaviors_Logo_HorizontalOne of the most requested workplace training tools today is The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team program. In this second of a series of five blog posts which describe how a team may journey towards improved results, Alice Dendinger will explain the concept of Mastering Conflict. Alice is a member of an elite group of professionals accredited to facilitate this program. The model was developed by Patrick Lencioni, author of the New York Times bestseller “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” who asserts that teamwork is absolutely crucial to business success. Inscape-Wiley (publisher of Everything DiSC and other high-quality workplace improvement tools) created validated assessment tools which give participants specific individual and team feedback as they work through the program.

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team is a facilitated learning program which allows teams within any organization to work better together and empowers them to solve many of their own problems. In this second post, I will focus on Mastering Conflict.

The Five Behaviors program shows that teams that master the following five areas are highly successful and get significantly better results:

• Build trust
• Master conflict
• Achieve commitment
• Embrace accountability
• Focus on results

Master Conflict
Trust—which I described in my last post—is a prerequisite for addressing the second behavior, mastering conflict. Team members who trust one another are going to feel comfortable engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate around issues and decisions. Otherwise, they are likely to hold back their opinions.

There is a big difference between team members practicing healthy debate and conflict versus avoiding conflict or engaging in conflict that is destructive. During the Five Behaviors facilitation, team members agree to the guidelines and behaviors that would allow for healthy conflict. Leaders are comfortable encouraging healthy debate and conflict as it proves to open opportunities for new and creative ideas to flow for the purpose of problem solving and improving processes. Just imagine a team that can have healthy conflict over ideas and confront issues rather than allowing gossip and hallway whispering to create dissention.

Here is an example of a team which lacked Conflict Mastery:

One company was reported to avoid conflict at all costs. They liked each other, it was a small community and they felt they were a family. They took a passive approach to conflict because they thought conflict would be “disrespectful” and just ignite a fight. Employees did not confront conflicts and instead would gossip to each other. As they worked with the cohesive team model, they realized how avoiding conflict really did negatively impact their bottom line. Projects took too long to complete, processes were not improved, they continued to do things the way they had always done them, and time was wasted on gossip and back-stabbing. As a “family,” they needed to learn how to have conflict that was healthy and productive, and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team facilitation presented a solution that worked for them.

When we speak of mastering conflict, we are talking about productive, ideological conflict— passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance to the team.

Teams that fear conflict:

• Have boring meetings
• Create environments where politics and personal attacks thrive
• Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success
• Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
• Waste time and energy with posturing and politics

Even among the best teams, conflict is always a little uncomfortable. No matter how clear you are that a conflict is focused on issues, not personalities, it is inevitable that at some point someone will feel personally attacked. It’s unrealistic for a team member to say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with your approach to the project” and not expect the other person to feel some degree of personal rejection. But if team members are not making one another uncomfortable at times, if they never push one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, it is likely that they’re not making the best overall decisions for the organization.

Tips on mastering conflict:

• A leader must be willing to engage in and encourage productive conflict.
• All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow.
• It’s important to distinguish productive, ideological conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal conflicts. Healthy conflict is focused on concepts and ideas and avoids mean-spirited, personal attacks.
• Teams that engage in productive conflict do so to produce the best possible solution in the shortest time period.


As with all cultural changes, leadership is critical. For a team to be successful, the leader must understand the power of teamwork and be prepared to lead the effort in terms of setting an example and dedicating time to it. It’s important to note that many leaders who seem uninterested in teamwork are often just skeptical about the possibility of achieving it or afraid that acknowledging the need for it might reflect poorly on them. Success is possible as long as team leaders are willing to start and trust the facilitated process.

The Five Behaviors program is not your usual workplace training. It requires being bold and addressing the issues that get in the way of results. If done properly, it will enable a team to move into higher levels of performance and productivity.

Join Alice for a full-day learning experience on The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, focusing on Trust.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on the other three of the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team!

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