Applying Four Lessons in Constructive Conflict

Are you tired of fighting fires in your organization?

Maybe you are putting out too many fires because you are not starting them. That’s right – maybe you need to fight fire with fire. Have you considered how many fires in your church are the result of:

  • False urgency being created by people’s agendas
  • An atmosphere of distraction
  • Lack of prioritization and preparation
  • Unresolved conflict that is swept under the carpet
  • Indecisiveness that propagates lingering questions
  • Bottlenecked decision-making with little empowerment

Ron Ashkenas and Lisa Bodell, writing in, think that leaders need to embrace conflict – in other words, sometimes they need to start a fire:

Overcoming the natural and often unconscious tendency to damp down conflict is tough to do – but if you’re willing to try, these four best practices can help:

Quote The Godfather. Doing this will reinforce the notion that we can disagree about ideas and strategies, but still respect and like each other — something that is often forgotten in the heat of battle.

Create challenge events. Rather than leave it to chance, schedule time with your team to question norms and change the way things are done.

Recognize employees who question the status quo. If someone pushes back or raises an uncomfortable question in a meeting, back them up rather than shut them down.

Set ground rules for conflict. Since everyone struggles with conflict to some degree, develop a few standards for how your team can manage it constructively.

In the short-term, it’s almost always easier to avoid conflict and come across as being a “nice” manager. But more often than not, being a little less nice might be the best thing for your people, your organization, and you.

Just maybe, the fires we are constantly chasing need to be replaced by a fiery, white-hot vision planted deeply in the minds and heart of our leaders and people.

Imagine if starting the right fire in each individual:

  • Aligned people’s attention
  • Increase everyone’s passion
  • Created more capacity for fewer initiatives
  • Catalyzed better communication and collaboration
  • Clarified values for better decisiveness
  • Gave people more problem solving authority

Realistically, great leadership will always have fires to put out.  That work is never completely done. But don’t be seen as a fireFIGHTer, in part, because you’re not a fireSTARTer. By doing that, you let other people start fires and you tend to keep your firefighting gear on.

Your system needs more vision – it needs the right fires planted in more people. 

Read more from Will here.

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Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley

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