How Understanding Healthy Conflict Can Help Elevate Your Teams

How Understanding Healthy Conflict Can Help Elevate Your Teams

The business case for diversity is clear.  By now, most of us have learned that diverse leadership teams are more innovative and bring higher financial returns than their homogenous competitors.

In addition, they make better and faster business decisions because they focus on facts instead of leaning into the assumptions of the group.

As we continue to focus on increasing diversity on our teams, we must also find ways to avoid the temptation to downplay our differences in order to maintain comfort and harmony. If we don’t create inclusion and welcome those different perspectives, we lose the benefit of having the diversity on our teams in the first place.

If you’ve ever worked on a diverse team, you’ve probably discovered that the work done within the team doesn’t always feel productive or harmonious.

Let’s face it: reaching an agreement when diverse perspectives and new ways of thinking are considered requires more work.

However, it’s the hard work and healthy debate that leads to better outcomes from diverse teams.

Stepping out of our comfort zone and letting go of the familiar flow can be challenging, especially if we don’t know how to engage in healthy debate and productive conflict.

In my early days as a new manager, I quickly discovered that one of the “other duties as assigned” included helping my direct reports resolve conflict that arose between team members.

For many of the Leaders we coach, addressing conflict continues to be a common challenge and an area where coaching can help. Equipping Leaders and team members with the knowledge and skills required to engage in healthy conflict can provide them with the safety net they need to take the risks that bring the rewards that come from working on and with diverse teams.


A few ideas to keep in mind about healthy conflict:

  • Conflict is natural and can be valuable.
  • Different perspectives are necessary for high performance.
  • Constructively addressing conflict enhances team effectiveness and organizational performance.
  • A person’s skills and habits around conflict can shape the outcome.
  • Mastering skills in conflict takes practice.



  • Assess the need for a conversation – does it need to be said? Do you have a reasonable request?
  • Frame the conversation around an important goal that matters to the business and other person.
  • Stick to facts and avoid judgment.
  • Ask open ended WHAT questions vs WHY questions.
  • LISTEN with curiosity.
  • Share what you heard to check for understanding.
  • Agree on next steps.



To learn more about how coaching can help your organization reap the benefits of the diverse and inclusive teams you’re working to create, contact us at: