Essential tips on ‘Team Dynamics’: How Constructive Disagreement Drives Success

team dynamics

The most effective teams are not those without problems, but those who navigate their dysfunctions most effectively.

I was recently thinking about team dynamics, the makeup of a good team, and somehow got lost in thought about a movie I haven’t seen in ages: The Dirty Dozen (1967). A band of misfits, who came together to form a unit that rivalled all units. Fiction by 30% according to some sources, but that doesn’t concern us here.

team dynamics

A solid team is a rare thing

We observe many types of team dynamics because we see teams. Oh yeah, we see lots of teams in our line of work. Strong teams, weak teams, polite teams, volatile teams, teams that care, teams that don’t, teams that are allowed to reign free, and teams that are constricted to conform, to the point of suffocation of any potential creative juice they might have.

And once every blue moon, we witness a solid unit. A bunch of individuals who come together like a fist when the s**t hits the fan. But this is rare. And I think this is because the status quo is stifling team dynamics with ‘conflict resolution’ training and conformity to a set of principles of harmony and peace. “Oh, we must ensure there is no disagreement, lest there be some people who take offense to it and conflict makes the team’s performance suffer”, and so on and so on.

Diversity is the main ingredient for good team dynamics

There’s so much research done on teams and what makes up a good team. Respect, trust, diversity, and all that. And we couldn’t agree more with these. But there’s also another side to a good team that doesn’t get mentioned that often, because it might sound a bit controversial at times. And this is the fact that a good team is just a bunch of relationships between its members, and, as with any relationship, there are the ups and the downs. Their team dynamics can fluctuate. Great times of focused clarity and alignment, versus moments of clashing and passionate disagreements.

The implications of constricting team diversity of thought

We’re all different and unique in our worldviews. And this is an amazing thing to acknowledge. After all, diversity sparks progress. But pushing teams to ‘silence’ their clashes through training or whatever, merely promotes conformity, doesn’t it?

Conformity to what? To the status quo, to the HR policy gathering dust somewhere, to the leaders’ justification of their corporate retreat, where they came up with the company’s vision, mission, and values schpeel. 

I can’t imagine HR, or anyone for that matter, wants their teams to feel the need to get on so well with each other, that they actively steer clear of disagreements or disputes or lively debates. We don’t want to brainwash teams into being too polite for their own good, do we? We don’t want to restrict the power of team dynamics. After all, “Politeness is the poison of collaboration”, according to Edwin Land.

Leveraging team friction and disagreement

Great teams aren’t just about alignment during times of peace; they’re also about dealing with things, when said things get heated. These are relationships we’re talking about! Relationships become stronger by being exposed to mutual sacrifice and suffering, along with all the good times that come their way. We shouldn’t be suppressing individuality by constantly trying to eradicate constructive conflict. Because when teams embrace the full spectrum of interaction, from the fervent debates to the unanimous agreements, they harness the raw energy needed to break new ground.

Balancing conflict and cooperation

The dynamics of a great team are built on the values of true friends, even if the team members might not be the best of friends. A good friend is someone who will have your back, no matter what. Someone who will just as quickly passionately disagree with you if they see you take a wrong direction, as they would rush to help you out in a predicament. And this is what we see solid teams do all the time; they push everything else aside, their personality clashes and so on, roll their sleeves up and get to doing their work in a flawless chain reaction of pure harmony.

Channeling team dissonance

Great team dynamics should not be about silencing dissent but about channeling it into something transformative that celebrates the diversity of thought and positive friction.

In closing, here’s to all the beautiful teams out there who can take care of themselves without needing babysitting, can handle their debates without needing the ‘conflict police’ to swoop in, and who celebrate their diversity by appreciating their unique shades of grey!

Deano

Deano Symeonides

I’m CHRO of Talent Hacks, L&D creator, and Chief Happiness Hacker (CHH). I thrive on coaching the uncoachable (unless it’s really out there). I’m a business psychologist who loves to make the tough get going. As a content creator and L&D expert (!!!), my blend of depth and drama transforms learning into an adventure. 🙂

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