How you resolve conflicts: look in the mirror

#46, Apr 5, 2024

Vasi is here. Preparing-cozy-atmosphere Vasi.

Lighting a palo santo stick, making a coffee and opening Notion.

Oooh, I almost forgot the 4th ingredient:

Song of the dose

… this newsletter is getting so romantic… (just kidding)

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 43 seconds.

I have to warn you something:

This dose can be dangerous. It depends on how and in what environment you apply it.

Read the leaflet carefully before use


What’s the issue about?

An exercise that our gang do in training sessions with tech teams.

It uses the Depth-Frequency Conflict Model from Patrick Lencioni’s book Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team + The 5 Conflict Resolution Styles according to the Thomas-Kilmann model.

We call this exercise The Conflict Mirror. Because it reflects your tendencies to resolve conflicts and what style do you usually use.

Understanding how everyone on your team resolves conflict has a massive effect. It has a positive effect when done well.

Atypically, before anything else, I’ll start with:

When should you NOT do this exercise?

I don’t prescribe this dose to you if:

  • you are not ready to “see yourself in the mirror” of your teammates and see your reflection in it
  • your team is newly formed and you don’t know each other yet
  • you have artificial harmony in your team

* Artificial harmony means people don’t express their different opinions and avoid discussing tough team issues.

If you recognize yourself in any of these circumstances – close this dose. And forget about it.

Most people think conflicts are bad and that there’s no room for them on a team.

The truth is if you don’t have any conflicts on your team:
↳ you’re not making the best decisions
↳ your meetings are boring and unproductive conflict exists on your team whether you see it or not.

> Weak teams avoid and ignore conflicts.
> Average teams break when there are disagreements.
> Great teams manage their disagreements and use them as a tool.

Conflicts are good and productive for the team if they’re healthy.

Hari from our gang recently shared some great insights about How to move your team from unhealthy conflicts to healthy debates in his A Leader’s Tale newsletter.

What The Conflict Mirror is for?

This exercise helps teams assess what behavior each of the team has in conflicts based on the intensity and regularity with which they engage one another and the style they use to resolve conflicts.

▶️ How deeply and frequently you enter into conflicts
▶️ What conflict resolution style you mostly use

The exercise is useful because gives you a picture of your team and allows you to create a more effective communication structure.

The exercise is useful if you ignore conflicts in your team (which is different from artificial harmony).

* Ignoring conflict means that the team does not make different points of view visible and avoids discussing them.

For example, through the TReE Team Scan tool, you can see a complete assessment of how you handle your conflicts in the team.

(this is a screenshot from a real dev team’s assessment report done with TReE Team Scan.)

How to use this exercise

1. Review the 2 models with your team.

2. Have each of you recreate the models on a blank sheet of paper, writing your name at the top.

3. Pass your sheet to the person on your left, who then puts an X in the quadrant that describes the conflict behavior of the one whose name is on top. Then pass the sheet along to the next member, and so on around the room.

* Note that it is important where exactly you put X on the various axes. Don’t just put it in a box, but choose the location that best indicates your perception of how the person listed at the top engages in conflict.

4. When all sheets have been returned to their original owners, you can review your own charts and indicate to the team your style (according to the aggregate input of other team members).

* This is optional and is only if each of you feel safe showing your sheet in front of the others. If you are not ready for this – you can complete the exercise here. What each of you received as a “mirror” can remain only for yourself.

5. Put all team members’ results on a whiteboard and so, the team conflict tendencies will become visible.

6. Discuss together the collective implications of your results, with special attention to areas of clear similarity and difference.

The Positive Effects

If you do it well, then you have great outcomes:

1. You have a picture of your team through which you will use the power of the team.

Imagine this: you have a meeting with your client coming up. It is critical to fight for your position.

Who will you send to this meeting – Vasi, who avoids conflicts or Hari, who will be competitive enough to stand up for your needs?

2. You can structure your team communication more effectively.

Imagine this: you are a DevOps team and have a meeting to decide whether or not to use a cloud platform to migrate part of your product.

If low-depth & low-frequency conflict-resolution people are the last to speak in this team meeting, they most likely would not stand up for their opinion if it differed from that of some of the high-depth & high-frequency conflict-resolution people.

They would “shoot down” their proposal and agree with someone else’s opinion.

Your team will not be able to discuss the issue from all perspectives. A productive debate in which everyone is heard would not result. And most likely you will not make the best decision.

Let’s wrap up

The Conflict Mirror exercise is a useful tool if you want to have an individual approach to each member of your team.

Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are. And how they can be combined so that you have synergy as a team.

Stay Healthy, my dear Pill-er!
– Vasi


♡ Thanks to Pravash Subba & Vesela Malinowska who replied to me after the last dose for Present your idea.

Your words are my fuel (and they arrived at the right time).

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