I am interested in constructive fights and their use in business for some time now. I know that Intel is one of the great examples where HR actually trains people to conduct constructive confrontations. Therefore, here are some ideas I think would help you to put constructive fights in place:
- Conduct a workshop on constructive fighting. This is a great coaching time for your employees you might want to invest in.
- As a leader, when I know that I’ll have a hot fight with our CEO about ideas, I make sure that we are visible in front of employees in order to set clear example of how to fight aggressively but with most respect and turning the fight into constructive machine to hone ideas.
- When pressure is high, lots of negative energy is built up due to people doing mistakes or frustration from not being able to deliver. So a constructive fight will end up releasing negative energy.
- Usually I host design battles where I bring two people to argue about a design concept (pros and cons) and then show why did we choose A over B. But most important, you let people to learn how to standup for their ideas, fight and respectfully choose the right side even if it is killing their idea.
Some of the great advocates for constructive fighting is Bob Sutton and Debra Dunn. Here are five quick tricks you can use to start a constructive-fight culture (I took it from this HBR post and explain it in my own words. “its up to you to start a good fight” http://blogs.hbr.org/2010/08/its-up-to-you-to-start-a-good/):
- Prevent fights at the beginning of generating ideas and make it safe for people to come up with crazy ideas. Once you have good number of ideas, get people to fight over them and the good idea will survive.
- Gently hold your employees who talk too much and encourage the people who talk to little.
- Look at the body language (things like actual listening, rolling eyes, smiles) across the team and coach people to learn constructive behaviors.
- Learn the differences between people. Some take criticism easily and some don’t even bother. keep in mind that all stay respectful all the time.
- After the fight is over, work with individuals to coach them to be less personal during the fight and calm down the people who became victims of wrong behaviors.
I hope this post was a great help for you. Please share with me your experiences around this topic.