The PEOPLE Process TYPE Talk Understanding People is what it's all about.
May 2011


In this issue we will be addressing some of the tools we learned in the section on Mastering CONFLICT. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? I mean, who wants to have any greater involvement with conflict than they absolutely have to?

That is what is so important about this part of the Team Skills Training. Dealing with CONFLICT is sometimes very necessary - but there is a way to do it that solves problems and empowers people. If I had been taught the steps outlined in this issue when I started out in the business world many years ago, the teams I worked on would have been more productive, positive, and actually a lot more fun!

We'd love to hear from you about experiences you're encountering in applying the Positive Functions of a Team. And, please let me know if I can assist any of you with anything you are encountering that you prefer not to share in a newsletter. You can email me at: [email protected].

Warm regards, Pam

  • Mastering CONFLICT
  • About the Author - Pam Hollister, INTJ

  • Mastering CONFLICT

    Trust is important for a very practical reason - without it, teams cannot, and probably should not, engage in unfiltered, productive, ideological conflict. But even after trust has been established, teams have difficulty with conflict. Why do you think teams have difficulty engaging in productive conflict? One reason is that people's viewpoints on, and comfort levels with conflict differ radically. Some people are comfortable screaming and shouting and arguing passionately; others hesitate to air the mildest of dissenting opinions because they don't want to offend anyone.

    When we talk about conflict on a team, we're talking about productive, ideological conflict: passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance to the team. Any team that wants to maximize its effectiveness needs to learn to do this, and doing so can only happen if vulnerability-based trust exists. That's not to say that some teams that lack trust don't argue. It's just that their arguments are often laced with politics, pride, and competition, rather than humble pursuit of truth. When people who don't trust one another engage in passionate debate, they are trying to win the argument. And worse yet, they're not even arguing with the other person face-to-face, but venting about them in the hallways after a meeting is over.

    Conflict is always a little uncomfortable. No matter how clear everyone is that the conflict they're engaging in is focused on issues, not personalities, it is inevitable that they will feel under some degree of personal attack. It's just unrealistic for a person to say, "I'm sorry, Jan, but I don't agree with your approach to the project," and not expect Jan to feel some degree of personal rejection. If team members are not making one another uncomfortable at times, if they're never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, it is unlikely that they're making the best decisions for the organization.


    Think about conflict this way. Imagine a continuum. On one end, there is artificial harmony with no conflict at all, and on the other, there are mean-spirited, personal attacks. In the exact middle of that continuum, there is a line where conflict goes from constructive to destructive or vice versa, depending on which direction you're going.

    The vast majority of teams live close to the harmony end of the scale, fearing that any movement toward the middle is one step closer to murder. The best place on the continuum, is close to the middle, just to the left of the dividing line. This is the point where a team is having every bit of constructive conflict possible, without stepping over the line into destructive territory, with personal attacks.

    Occasionally, a team will go over the line into destructive territory. But, like a good marriage can recover and have closer ties and confidence in the relationship. It is important for all of us as team members to understand where each other fall in this range and why, so we can establish a conflict culture that everyone understands.


    • Rare but Substantive Conflict
    • Frequent but Substantive Conflict
    • Rare and Shallow Conflict
    • Frequent and Shallow Conflict

    Factors like cultural background and family norms can have a significant impact on the way each of us feels about conflict. In come cultures, there is very little direct disagreement and debate during meetings, while in others people tend to "get in one another's face." Some people come from a background where parents and siblings rarely engaged in raw, emotional dialogue. Others watched their parents argue passionately, and then make up with equal passion. Which is better on a team? It doesn't matter. The only thing that really matters is this: Are people holding back their opinions? Members of great teams do not.

    About the Author - Pam Hollister, INTJ

    Pamela Hollister developed The PEOPLE Process - "Understanding People is what it's all about" - with the intention of providing a package and trainings that would simplify the understanding and use of personality-type theory. Pam has over 35 years of professional business experience with emphasis on entrepreneurship, marketing and business communications. She has created and directed Team Skills training programs for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and personality type trainings for a large number of Fortune 500 companies, the US Air Force, the Department of Energy, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and numerous school districts throughout North America.

    RULES OF ENGAGEMENT Designed to provide team members with clarity about how they expect each other to engage in discussion and debate.

    Spend some time thinking over your own preferences relating to acceptable and unacceptable behaviors around discussion and debate. Include what you prefer in terms of the kind of language and tone of voice people should use; the emotional content of their messages; the extent of their involvement and participation; and so on.

    Some examples of the kinds of preferences people might have include:

    • Be honest, don't talk behind people's backs
    • Just say what you think, don't worry about offending someone
    • Keep it about the topic, not about the individual
    • Don't leave a meeting without sharing all thoughts

    Plan a team meeting where everyone shares their behavior do's & don'ts. The Team Leader then leads the members through a discussion whereby the group combines the rules into one master Rules of Engagement. Post the rules in a visible location for all members to be aware of the agreed upon behaviors for the team.

    • Good conflict among team members requires trust, which is all about engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate around issues
    • Even among the best teams, conflict will at times be uncomfortable
    • Conflict norms, though they will vary from team to team, must be discussed and made clear among the team
    • The fear of occasional personal conflict should not deter a team from having regular, productive debate

    Quick Links...

    Communications and Personality Type - Sensing & iNtuition

    Conflict and Type

    Your Leadership Story - Part 2

    The PEOPLE Process Blog

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