Fostering Conflict..


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Chess_by_The_Green_Squirrel_on_FlickrI started 2012 with a new job, saying goodbye to my life as a self-employed consultant. I liked working without ‘a boss’, on the other hand I did miss the feeling of seeing things through to the very end (as if that even exists), so I made the jump.

Man with a mission
But not without my mission to alter the face of marketing from a ‘goods logic, campaign driven, transaction and volume focused department’ to a ‘Customer (job/journey) driven and service experience focused holistic approach’ aimed at maximizing the co-creation of value. A mission I have far from completed, but have learned a lot from trying so far.

Sharing what’s difficult
Of course I could share with you my key learnings, but I feel we all learn more if I’d share with you my key struggles. The stuff that I find hard to get done or feel is in my way. For that’s the stuff ultimately holding me from completing my mission. Depending on how this post resonates I’m considering sharing more over the course of 2013.

Struggling with disagreement
I work with(in) a wonderful group of highly diverse, skilled and intelligent (senior) professionals and (team)managers. The (corporate) culture is one of alignment and avoidance of conflict which results in people having a hard time with disagreement. Be it disagreement in their own teams, disagreement with me, disagreement with other teams or me disagreeing with them..

The importance of conflict
I think disagreement and conflict are important ingredients when cooking new solutions to the challenges we face. And of course it is also important to get alignment and a shared view, but not too early in the process. I need the disagreement to ensure all angles of the discussion come to the table for it will result in better decisions.

Dosing conflict
Yet, I have to admit, I struggle with dosing disagreement. Usually we come to agreement, but at one point this year I had a strong disagreement with some people over next steps based on an analysis of a marketing program. I knew I was not going to convince them of my point of view (quit the program immediately) and I explained to them I was not going to support their point of view in the management team (which I’m part of and for whom we were preparing the decision). Instead I invited them to defend their own case with my colleagues individually prior to the management team meeting and that I would inform my colleagues accordingly. I told my colleagues my team and I agreed to disagree and that we liked them to hear both points of view. And so we did.

Some of my colleagues in the management team also though it was strange that I submitted an analysis and proposed next steps I myself did not support, but it wasn’t a big issue. We focused on the merits of the analysis and had a fruitful discussion.

The management team decided upon a compromise, I can very well live with, effectively quiting the program within 6 months, but that’s not the point of this post.

Feelings of insecurity
Afterwards I sat down with my team and some were obviously happy with the new ‘agreement to be able to disagree’. Others said they now feel more insecure since they do not feel supported (by me) or taken seriously. This is a down-side I did not expect and I’m also not so sure how big of a down-side it is. After some discussions we agreed to let it rest and bring it up again when a case presented itself. So far non has, but I am sure there will be.

How do you think I should deal with it then? Exactly how important is (dis)agreement to you when preparing decisions? When is it too much?

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Republished with author's permission from original post.


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