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The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

"Who knew that growing up in a big Italian family full of conflict would provide me with the perfect training for MBA at the dinner table! Susan and CrisMarie give us tools on how to embrace, bring out, use, and channel conflict to help teams get more out of each other and make better business decisions. This book is a must read for teams who want to be better together."
Pete Ungaro Cray CEO



Most of us avoid it like crazy. But what if harnessing conflict was our best chance to build championship teams that produce greatness?  

But here’s the problem: Most people weren’t trained in doing this nor were we provided good models growing up.

The truth is, most people think conflict can only be painful and an impediment to work, so they make conscious choices to avoid, manage, or defuse it by choosing to either overpower the situation to end and win an argument or going silent to keep the peace.  

At first glance this seems like a good idea at an individual level. After all, who wants to experience the discomfort, other people’s reactions, or all of the tension that conflict brings?

But here’s the truth: When leaders and teams avoid, manage, or defuse conflict, they wind up mired in politics, gossip, and back-channel maneuvering. Team meetings are boring, as people defer to the leader or the loudest member. Team members are uninspired, or worse, disengaged, and their performance is mediocre at best. Ultimately, turnover increases because no one wants to stay on a team that’s so dysfunctional.

Sound familiar?

If it does, you are not alone. In a 2014 Gallup survey of employee engagement, only 31.5% of employees were “engaged” (psychologically committed and making positive contributions at work), 51% of employees were disengaged, and 17.5% were actively disengaged. CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke, authors of the groundbreaking new book, The Beauty of Conflict (October 31, 2017), believe there’s a direct correlation between employee engagement and the degree to which people embrace and use conflict.

“Remember: Tension is your friend. Tension prods you to find new answers to old problems.”

This is not another book with formulas for addressing conflict because it’s a good team management strategy. Rather, approached right, conflict is a gift that every member of a team can bring to the table.  

The book provides simple, practical tools that can be applied with a team — or in any relationship — to make a positive impact using the natural energy of conflict to create innovative, profitable, and, ultimately, beautiful results. The book introduces big-picture concepts to help a team look at conflict differently, and detailed tools for how to work with and through the tension that comes up when a team begins embracing conflict. Sprinkled throughout are plenty of real-life business examples from the authors’ 15 plus years of working with Fortune 100 companies to start-ups, illustrating what works and what doesn’t.

The Change

Imagine looking forward to your next team meeting. Imagine experiencing tension and conflict in the room and thinking, “This is going to lead to a great and innovative outcome — we just don’t know what it is yet!”

When you as a leader strive to produce a cohesive and aligned team, embracing and using conflict will help you harness the team’s potential by accessing creative breakthroughs, driving the team’s competitive advantage. Your team, rather than deferring to the leader’s or loudest member’s opinion, will come up with creative breakthroughs together. You’ll arrive at ideas that none of you considered before walking into the room. Team momentum increases because people are inspired and engaged. No longer does one person have to pull the team along; they’re pushing ahead together and producing the greatest results. 

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