After a few rounds of coffee and morning chatter, hundreds of Inc. 500|5000 attendees piled into an auditorium at the Gaylord Conference Center to see author Patrick Lencioni talk about building healthy teams. And a key ingredient for health is, you guessed it, conflict.
"First, here's what healthy means," he told a packed house of alert and note-taking entrepreneurs and business owners. "Minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, and low turn-over. That's it. But most CEO's spend 95 percent of their time on the smart part, because it's easier."
The fast-talking Lencioni, a bestselling author of several books including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, launched into a talk about how a smart and healthy organization is the only way to grow a successful business. His theory focuses primarily on the stuff not learned in business school: the healthy conflict part.
"Conflict builds good teams," he said. "Companies that don't discuss, that don't fight--the bad stuff gets pushed under the rug, out into the hall. It creates trouble later on."
He added: "Conflict with trust is the pursuit of truth. Conflict without trust is politics. If your team fights about something, they are engaged no matter what final decision is made."
How do you foster healthy conflict? Build trust.
An attendee stood up and asked him to explain further how exactly to build trust.
"Vulnerability," he said immediately. "I'm looking for people who can say 'I suck at something.' Someone who can be relatable to the people who work for them."
"But don't go back home and have a vulnerability event," he added, laughing. "It has to be natural. People will know if it's engineered. It's not found on stage or in a press release. It's in a meeting when you've been wrong and your employee was right, and you admit it."