Effective conflict resolution begins with Belbin.

Conflict in behavioral diversity is food for Teams to overcome adversity

As individuals and as teams, we know, doing the same things, and thinking in the same ways, will give us the same results. We know, we can't get out of a problem, doing the same things and thinking in the same ways, that led us to it in the first place. We also know, that knowing this is a no brainer!  So?

Can we learn to behave differently, to respect and leverage individual differences, to our collective advantage?  Why not? Belbin can show us how, as it did for Shantaram!  Read on...

Is conflict good or bad for Teamwork?

“This meeting can’t continue like this. There is too much blood on the table. One more of such an experience, and I will have to call off this project or reconstitute this team” said Shantaram, looking seriously worried. He had to meet his CEO that afternoon for a review of Operation Big Bang. With such heated discussions that were going nowhere, Operation Big Bang was poised to fizzle out soon, and Shantaram hated to articulate its obituary. More than that, his own colleagues on the Executive Team would tear him apart with their pin-pointed arguments. So disturbed he was, he didn’t even wait for the customary summing-up. He just quietly walked out of the war-room where the meeting was held.

Interestingly that afternoon, Operation Big Bang was not even whispered in the CEO review. Shantaram heaved a sigh of relief when the agenda came up on the opening slide. “Welcome Mr Deep Kushal” said the CEO. “Deep is here to help us raise the bar on our Leadership Effectiveness as the Executive Team. He will give us an overview of what he does, how he feels he can be of help to us, and if we agree he will, over the next few months, work with all of us individually and collectively. Over to Deep”.

Three months later, it was the same war-room. The same Shantaram began the meeting saying “We are at war with the competition. I want you to fight that war here in this room. Now. Let me see some blood on the table. Am sure you all have worn your helmets and gloves. Let the fight begin. The best idea wins. We need it. Let’s begin”.

How come? How did conflict that seemed so dysfunctional a few months ago, turn to a competitive advantage?

Behavioral Diversity is opportunity - The Belbin Way

Deep sat with Shantaram in his office by the terrace garden.

Deep: “I suppose you have read through your own Belbin individual report, and that of all your people on Operation Big Bang. Have you been through them?”

Shantaram: “Oh yes! Let me pull out that bunch for you” He reached out for a folder of all Belbin Reports and handed it over to Deep. “Don’t mind the scribble here and there. Those are my reflections”

Deep: “Am impressed with the sincere diligence you have done to the Belbin Team Role Methodology. So, what do you ‘d-o’ differently, given all this reflection”?

Shantaram: “Well, the most significant change for me has been that I have started loving a good argument and the vulnerability that comes with it.I see diversity of behavior as an opportunity to create greater synergy between the team, to raise the bar on the quality of our output. Personally, my Belbin Team Worker has learnt to ‘pause’ when heated arguments happen in the team. We now call them PCC ‘pressure cooker conversations’ where conflict helps squeeze the best from our brains.

Deep: What else?

Shantaram: “We have learnt to accept each other as a bundle of strengths and‘allowable’ weaknesses. For example, we know that Arya the Belbin RI – Resource Investigator will go off on tangents, but when we have patience with such verbal diarrhoea, we also get valuable intelligence about our competition. We know that Sampath will not respond to a frivolous question, because he is a Belbin Specialist SP, whose interest lies in knowing more and more about less and less.. and so we listen to his measured few words in silence. I remember how three months ago, we fought during an entire meeting because Sampath refused to respond to a question from Arya, calling him loose canon. What a waste or rather missed opportunity that was!”. And, the  BELBIN Working Relationship Reports served as a practical guide to how two people who work together can get the best from each other, and the consequent synergy played out as our success!

Conflict Avoidance - Comfort Zone or Compatibility Trap? 

Deep: Given your first 30 days with Belbin, what would be one key learning you will share with people who struggle with conflicts like you did?

Shantaram: “How I wish I had a million dollars with me..I would give it all to you for that clincher of a one-liner – We are more comfortable with people with whom we are compatible, and we are more effective with people with whom we are incompatible. When the team bought in to that point of view during that 2 day workshop that you did with us, I knew we had crossed the bridge to a promising future. Thank you, Deep”.

Deep: “It’s not me, Shantaram. It’s Belbin. It’s gratifying to see adversaries learn to respect the differences around the table. Such mutual respect stands to save priceless dollars for corporations.. as it enables greater depth and debate in conversations, with lesser acrimony. No wonder, those who believe in well begun is half done, always begin with Belbin. Cheers!”.

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