Resolving conflict & stuck group dynamics
How our work developing Collective Intelligence with the leadership team at a global technology company enabled them to move past toxic conflict, develop greater trust and connection and adopt more effective working practices.
For several years the leader of one of the biggest business units at a global technology company had been trying to roll out a transformation agenda, with little success. The team was struggling with unproductive conflict and had become stuck in a repetitive loop of destructive group dynamics.
Phase one was observation and diagnosis. Firstly, we observed the group in action and codified their group dynamics. We then undertook interviews with each team member, as well as reviewing their team governance and their work on strategy development to date. It became clear that individuals had become entrenched in increasingly polarised perspectives on the team and ways forward for the business. Within the group, advocacy prevailed over inquiry, discussions within team meetings made little progress and interpersonal conflict was out of control.
As a first step towards resolving the situation we had each individual complete a 360 assessment, followed by a programme of one-to-one coaching. This highlighted a wide variety of personality styles in the team, ranging from the conflict averse to those who were totally comfortable with a shouting match. Our team worked intensively over this critical period to help individuals develop greater awareness around their own leadership style, as well as the differing personality types and needs of their colleagues.
Once this process was underway we then brought the individuals at the heart of the conflict together in small diads and triads, deploying our consultants to mediate within these small networks.
Next, we supported the leadership team in transforming its group dynamic by helping them establish clear practices and norms for behaviour within team meetings. By sharing the codified observations we had made as part of the observation phase, we helped them see that their stuck patterns of communication were compounding conflict within the team. To address this, we introduced a wide variety of new collaboration practices that developed the capacity for Collective Intelligence within the team.
We then tackled the challenges with team governance. Up until this point the team had met for two days each month as 15 people around a boardroom table. This meant the topic at hand was often only relevant to a few people within the team. And with so many onlookers to a discussion people didn’t feel comfortable surfacing potential conflict, or that there wasn’t appropriate space to resolve it productively, when it did surface. We helped them redesign their meeting agenda to allow a half day for small groups to break out around important topics, come to a resolution, and then report back to the wider group.
Finally, since we had discovered that the differing goals set by global functions were creating and exacerbating conflict, we supported the team leader to work with the key global functions to ensure greater alignment and integration around goal-setting.
Within a short period of time team members were able to let go of past conflict, develop greater trust and connection and agree how to work better together moving forward. The team reported that their new capabilities and practices around Collective Intelligence had transformed their capacity for collective leadership. This transformation led to a step change in their collective performance, with the organisation achieving its best results that year due to the improved cohesion and functioning of the leadership team.
As a result of our success with the team, we were invited to partner with the organisation through its transformation journey over the next two years, as well as helping them to develop the capacity for Collective Intelligence across the whole organisation.
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