!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Runde and Flanagan on Managing Conflict Within Teams

Friday, June 12, 2009

Runde and Flanagan on Managing Conflict Within Teams

Despite its awkward title — Building Conflict Competent Teams — a recently published book by Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan1 offers sophisticated advice for managing conflict within teams. Runde and Flanagan aim "to help teams and team members assess their current level of conflict competence, select areas for improvement, provide some practical guidance for handling conflicts more effectively, and leverage conflict to their advantage."

In developing their recommendations, Runde and Flanagan worked from four premises:
  • Conflict is inevitable.

  • Conflict can have both positive and negative results.

  • People often have recourse to fight-or-flight responses to conflict.

  • People can learn more effective conflict skills.
Runde and Flanagan also posit that "conflict competent" teams have three characteristics:
  • The right climate — a climate of trust, vulnerability (i.e., team members are willing to risk seeming inadequate in some respects and/or situations), and safefy.

  • Behavioral integration — meaning the team acts as a team. Members are cooperative, reach decisions collectively, adhere to shared commitments, share values, reward team accomplishments. "Teams that become behaviorally integrated are more likely to see their differences and conflicts as advantages and opportunities rather than barriers and traps."

  • Constructive communication — Team members are skilled in saying useful things, and saying them in a way that encourages open-minded consideration by the others on the team. This includes good habits of nonverbal communication.
In addition to the first chapter, which is available as a pdf sample of the book, you can read a summary, published in the Center for Creative Leadership's, June newsletter, of techniques Runde and Flanagan recommend for minimizing potential for conflict within a team ("Before a conflict" techniques), for managing conflict when it arises, and for "effectively giving periodic peer feedback." As the summary puts it, "Whenever conflicts begin to take a toll, these techniques can help team members regain control, refocus their energy and begin to reestablish the climate."

1 Craig Runde is director of new program development, and Tim Flanagan is director of custom programs, at the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida.