Leverage Conflict to Create More Effective Teams

Kelly Willenberg

Dr. Kelly Willenberg, DBA, RN, CCRP, CHC, CHRC, Manager, Kelly Willenberg & Associates.

“Conflict isn’t always bad,” says Dr. Kelly Willenberg, DBA, RN, CCRP, CHC, CHRC, manager of Kelly Willenberg & Associates. She’s a big proponent of what she calls “conflict competence,” or the art of negotiating so that everyone feels heard and all viewpoints are considered to keep teams functioning at their best.

For Willenberg, the greater risk is a complete lack of conflict for the wrong reasons. “Some people withdraw rather than engage” out of a fear of conflict, she says. That doesn’t do anyone any good, she notes, because the employee sometimes checks out and the organization is robbed of his or her perspective and, in some cases, excellent ideas.

“Everyone has a right to be heard,” Willenberg says, “but unfortunately some people are defeated before it starts” because they don’t know how to engage, negotiate, and express themselves while also bearing in mind the perspectives and opinions of others.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the importance of getting this right at the very forefront, Willenberg says.  “People had to learn to accommodate and collaborate in new ways,” she notes, as “crisis management became incredibly valuable.”

Further, no one should passively play the victim, Willenberg stresses. It’s incumbent upon employees to engage and make their voices heard. She cites one big pet peeve: people who shut off their cameras during online team meetings.

“The camera should remain on, to show engagement, among other things,” she notes, calling the habit a bad sign that is worth addressing. “If you mute and go off camera, how do I even know if you are paying attention? People [may be trying to] avoid situations by turning off their camera.”

Author: Michael Causey