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Harnessing the Power of Conflict
By Kiron D. Bondale

Few of us enjoy dealing with conflict.

But shying away from conflict doesn’t work – you’ll get mediocre results from a team who focuses more on being nice than making progress, or worse, your better team members will become disengaged and actively seek new roles.

So what are some clues to alert you that you may need to step in to catalyze the chemical reaction?

Pay close attention to people’s body language. If you are frequently witnessing a mismatch between what people are saying and how they are acting, that might indicate that they are really not in favor of a direction.

If the drive to maintain team harmony appears to trump all others, that may need to be called out. A symptom of this is whenever any discussion starts to become lively, a number of team members suggest that it be taken offline (which never happens), or some other type of interference occurs to interrupt the progression of the conflict.

On the other hand, unhealthy conflict is evidenced by a greater focus on personalities and positions rather than the underlying issue.

If you start witnessing attacks on individual team members or if you notice a growing reluctance to participate in team discussions or withdrawing symptoms from certain team members, it could mean that conflicts are beginning to become too personal and need to be re-focused.

Of course, picking up on signs of poor conflict requires you to be sufficiently self-aware – it can be difficult to identify the behaviors of your team members if you are exhibiting the same behaviors yourself.

While it is an essential ingredient when forging healthy, productive teams, conflict can feel like making nitroglycerine. – you need it to make a bomb, but let the process get away from you, and you are likely to bear the brunt of the failure.

Kiron D. Bondale, PMP, PMI-RMP has managed multiple mid-to-large-sized technology and change management projects, and has worked in both internal and professional services project management capacities. He has setup and managed Project Management Offices (PMO) and has provided project portfolio management and project management consulting services to clients across multiple industries.

Kiron is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and served as a volunteer director on the Board of the PMI Lakeshore Chapter for six years.

Kiron has published articles on Project and Project Portfolio Management in both project management-specific journals (PM Network, PMI-ISSIG journal, Projects & Profits) as well as industry-specific journals (ILTA Peer-to-peer). He has delivered almost a hundred webinar presentations on a variety of PPM and PM topics and has presented at multiple industry conferences including HIMSS, MISA and ProjectWorld. In addition to this blog, Kiron contributes articles on a monthly basis to ProjectTimes.com.

Kiron is a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organization change that addresses process & technology, but most important, people will maximize your chances for success. You can reach Kiron at kiron_bondale@yahoo.ca

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