No one likes conflict – but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it. Learn how to turn those “Oh, Sh*t! Moments,” when opinions and personalities clash, into the juice that powers your team to great results and new heights.
Download supplemental tools and bonus material not included in the book.
Politics. Confusion. Factions. Gossip. Turnover.
If you lead a team, you may see conflict as the worst part of your job. You may see it as counterproductive, dysfunctional, and a waste of time because team members are not dealing with each other – maybe not even speaking. You may see lost opportunity, inspiration, cohesiveness, and ultimately, productivity.
But what if you could see…results?
That’s what The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage is all about.
Written by life and business partners CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke, The Beauty of Conflict shows you how the perfect storm of conflicting vision, opinion, and passion can be fertile ground for creativity and innovation. By leaning in to those inevitable oh, sh*t! moments when people clash, you’ll unleash the juice that powers your team’s competitive advantage. You’ll learn to:
Utilize the potential energy in conflict
Guide your team through difficult moments
Bridge differences between people to boost your team’s IQ
Use conflict to spark innovation and team transformation
Increase trust, engagement and profit
Featuring true stories and practical examples drawn from the authors’ 25 years of experience working with Fortune 500 and other major companies, The Beauty of Conflict will show you how to lead your team past the discomfort of conflict by harnessing the energy of their individual differences -- and leverage those oh, sh*t! moments into increased productivity and profitability.
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"Many leaders see conflict as a sign of an unhealthy team, but as The Beauty of Conflict pointedly shows, this is a huge mistake. Leaders who learn to leverage healthy conflict for the good of their team will forge a culture that thrives in the face of uncertainty. The Beauty of Conflict gives you the awareness and tools to help your team fight fair."
Author of The Accidental Creative
“CrisMarie and Susan were instrumental in helping a “smart” but “unhealthy” team of mine work through some very serious, yet largely unspoken, conflicts. It wasn’t a fast or easy process, but we’re now the team that I knew we could be. The powerful techniques in The Beauty of Conflict had a huge impact on our teamwork and engagement – and we’re having more fun and delivering even better results.”
“CrisMarie and Susan were critically important in the early formation of the leadership team at Theravance. The culture they helped create has transcended any particular employee at this point, and the company is thriving. I am thankful to them both. They’ve written an important book designed to help leaders break through the barriers of those inevitable personality clashes and leverage them for your team’s competitive advantage.”
Global Head of Research and Development, Janssen Inc. Johnson & Johnson Company
Previously of Theravance, Senior Vice President of Research and Development
"I was introduced to CrisMarie and Susan when they came in to work with our leadership team at Microsoft. I really value their perspective on team conflict and building trust through vulnerability, curiosity and real teamwork on business issues. I have reused their materials over and over to great success with leaders and teams. I'm thrilled that this book is now out for other leaders. Their style is real, personal and practical. It’s a must-read for a leader wanting to build strong relationships and get great business results.”
Microsoft Director, Business Operations & Compliance
"Who knew that growing up in a big Italian family full of conflict would provide me with the perfect training for business...an 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. "
"In an industry that has its roots in command and control, the concepts in this book provide a clear path for creating high performing teams and a humane company culture. After having been first introduced to the Thrive! team 7 years ago, I'm still getting great value from our work with Thrive! This is a must-read for any leader wanting to influence change on their team and in their organization overall.”
TMAC Resources CEO
“We partnered with Thrive! during a crucial time in our growth. We applied the Thrive! team and communication tools to help us enhance the performance of our leadership team and improve our company culture, which contributed significantly to our success going public as one of the top five performing IPO’s of 2016!”
"I worked with Thrive! on two different teams: one I was a member of and one I lead. Each time, Thrive!’s work was game-changing for our business. Our ability to work productively with conflict real-time, changed conflict into not a problem but a resource for creative and innovative problem solving. Our work with Thrive! helped transform not only my team but my entire organization. This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to create organizational change.”
Nationwide Bank President
"The Beauty of Conflict provides the practical model for becoming an influential leader, creating high-performing teams and transforming conflict into innovative results — no small undertaking! CrisMarie and Susan partnered with us to develop our leadership team, senior leaders and managers. Their approach outlined in The Beauty of Conflict is practical, sound and effective. I happily recommend them and the book!"
Marchex VP People Services
"How invigorating to see such a powerful body of work on conflict and communication. We engaged Thrive! at Seattle Children’s Hospital when we were in a moment of crisis in a high-profile project. CrisMarie and Susan coached us through not only overcoming conflict, but learning to embrace and exploit it to our benefit.
At Children’s and again at UW Medicine, we adopted “Check It Out” as a powerful tool to address intrapersonal disagreements. It became part of our communication vernacular, and as it did, we witnessed increases in team effectiveness and willingness to engage one another directly.
When team members independently recognized our ability to overcome the passive aggressive phenomenon known as “Pacific Northwest Nice," we out performed our original goals! I’m delighted to see these tools, stories and cumulative experiences in this book for the benefit of all organizations – so they, too, can unleash the underestimated power of conflict!"
Skagit Regional Health Senior Director of Application Services
“The Haven is a center for transformative learning dedicated to helping people build richer relationships with others and themselves. For more than 30 years we have offered programs in self responsible, relational living and the art and science of living well, together.
Susan and CrisMarie are The Haven’s trusted team advisors, our go to people to work with our board, management team and staff. They have offered the highest quality team training at different times as teams have changed and grown, and especially as team members have got into difficulties with each other. Each time they leave the organization in better shape, and the impact of their work is both deep and lasting.
Teams are more in synch, are more able to navigate through difficult times and are clearly focused on their common purpose. I’m excited that this book, The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage, is now available. It’s a must read for anyone working in teams in any kind of organization. If you think that conflict is the problem, think again! Susan and CrisMarie’s book will help turn the elephant in the room to your organization’s competitive advantage.”
The Haven Institute Executive Director
“We have been married nearly 25 years and in business together for even longer so clearly we’ve learned to “manage” conflict. If not, we’d be either dead, divorced or the business would have dissolved by now. We felt we had a good handle on this but after working with Susan and CrisMarie, we learned how to go beyond just managing conflict to actually harnessing the power (and the beauty!) of conflict to make our partnership—both personal and professional--even more powerful. Why settle for resolving conflict when you can turn it into a competitive advantage?”
Greg & Jenifer Lambert
TERRA Staffing Group, CEO and VP
“As the GM of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft I lead an organization full of subject matter experts. Working with CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke, gave me the methodology, tools and guidance to transform not just my leadership team, but my whole organization, into a high performing cohesive team! The Beauty of Conflict should be required reading for every leader!”
Microsoft, Former GM Trustworthy Computing
“Conflict is never my favorite thing, and truth-telling can lead to conflict. But I've found that when we face this fact with integrity, an alchemical change turns coworkers into true creators. CrisMarie and Susan describe this process in The Beauty of Conflict, and I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve team performance at work or anywhere else.”
Martha Beck Inc. CEO and Author
Real World Testimonials About
Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage
Through the Beauty of Conflict
About the Authors
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke are the founders of Thrive! -- a coaching and consulting firm that specializes in helping individuals, leaders, teams and entire companies, learn how to deal with differences to ignite creativity and innovation. They have a proven, step-by-step process for making teams great -- a process they’ve honed working with hundreds of leaders and their teams for over 25 years.
risMarie’s immersion in team dynamics started early. As an Olympic and World Champion rower, she learned first-hand what makes a championship team versus simply a team of champions. She launched her career as an engineer at Boeing, where she helped initiate a groundbreaking, cross-functional team approach for how the company designs and builds airplanes. Next, CrisMarie earned her MBA and a position as a manager at Arthur Andersen, where she coached executive business leaders around the country on the secrets to making big changes stick in their organizations. Then, working with Patrick Lencioni, author of
Five Dysfunctions of a Team, as a member of his elite consulting team at The Table Group, she honed her ability to turn a team around in two days flat. CrisMarie’s passion is helping women in business find their voice, increase their influence and make the impact they crave both in business and in their lives.
usan Clarke was also part The Table Group team. She stepped into the leadership role of her life at the age of 24, when doctors gave her just six months to live. Determined to prove them wrong, she built her own “Dream Team,” identifying a diverse group of smart health-care professionals and rallying them to work together to save her life. She then spent the next 20 years building on that success, earning her BS and then MA in education, and then honing her skills as a facilitator, educator and coach. Susan went on to lead transformational programs at The Haven, the prestigious professional development center in BC, Canada; facilitate in native communities, and coach “stalled” corporate executives and teams around the globe.
with CrisMarie and Susan
Q: What’s the connection between conflict and collective creativity?
CrisMarie: Get this – the latest brain research shows that our creativity kicks in when our brains have access to competing ideas. It’s like an all you can eat buffet of possibilities – that causes our subconscious minds to mix and match ideas in fresh ways our conscious brain wouldn’t. This is why it’s so crucial as a leader to encourage conflict on their team – and the tension and ambiguity that comes along with it. Simply put, without that tension and the disagreement, there is no creativity.
Susan: Conflict occurs when there are strong emotions, differing opinions and high stakes – now, doesn’t that sounds like a leadership team meeting? The challenge is that many smart, passionate people are so used to trusting themselves and their judgment… that they have run the risk of overlooking the major benefit of what we call “collective creativity.” That’s when the best of one idea gets mixed with the best of someone else’s idea… and that new idea emerges as something far more innovative and clever than any one person’s plan! Now, that mixing of ideas takes tolerance, vulnerability, and curiosity from the team, but when they’ve got the skills and structure to make sure that happens consistently – WOW! – something totally new is possible.
Q: But teams try to avoid or minimize conflict – so you’re saying that’s a problem. Why?
CrisMarie: When a team avoids conflict, two things happen. First, people meet with their buddies to talk about it, while unproductive behaviors go unaddressed. Second, because the conflict has ‘gone underground,’ the team never gets to hear multiple viewpoints that spark collective creativity – ideas that the group invents together, that don’t actually belong to any one person.
Experiencing conflict – and the personal discomfort that often goes with it -- is required for collective creativity. If your team has silently agreed to avoid conflict, clashes, and tension at all costs, you never get the payoff, namely creative thinking and problem solving.
Susan: When a team tried to downplay conflict, they are ‘dumbing down’ the team’s collective intelligence. Avoiding conflict means someone in the room is biting her tongue. That’s a handicap.
It’s not doing anyone any favors, either. The best teams are made up of a range of skills and expertise… this naturally will create conflict! Which means most teams think about conflict as this negative thing, when really it’s the juice for creativity, innovation, and extraordinary smart problem solving. If you never let conflict out in the room, you never get access to that firepower.
Q: Wait -- aren’t there also teams that have TOO MUCH conflict
CrisMarie: Absolutely! We have found this happens in competitive cultures where people are encouraged to argue and try to beat each other. That type of interaction lacks vulnerability, trust, and curiosity. It may lead to results, but it’s difficult to sustain.
And usually isn’t very pleasant for the people involved. That’s not what we mean when we talk about conflict. We mean the clashes and disagreements that naturally arise when smart, passionate people come together. For that conflict to be productive, you’ve got to be willing to be vulnerable and curious.
Susan: Conflict is energy. So I’m not sure I would ever think there’s too much of it. That said, there can be too much aggression and fight. These type of teams and organizations take pride in yelling and fighting it out. But that has very little to do with using conflict.
Often people assume conflict is another word for fighting. As I see it, conflict is simply when there are opposing views, strong emotions and high stakes. It’s a situation that naturally arises when smart people come together. The energy is there. It's just a question of whether a team knows how to channel that energy towards its goals, or tries to defuse or bury that energy.
Aggression and fight are just two more ways people try to defuse or overpower conflict energy on a team. They can be useful for short bursts of individual excellence. But even so, that individual excellence often comes at a huge cost to team engagement and collective brilliance.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you see teams making, when it comes to handling conflict?
CrisMarie: The biggest mistake is watering down what you have to say so you never really say it. This is also called being polite. If I am worried about you each time I want to disagree, it makes for an uptight, unsatisfying experience. We want teams to be able to lean in and get passionate about their ideas and differences, which may get messy. And that’s okay!
Susan: When two people are disagreeing with each other, they are often encouraged to take it offline. The idea is that this spares the group discomfort or inefficiency of witnessing the clash.
But when you take this approach, you rob the group of learning the value of dialogue and debate. You lose the team’s help in creating the best space for opposing views and strong emotions.
And more times than not, the real conversation never happens. Nothing resolves, and all that potential energy for collective intelligence goes to waste.
Q: My team is not in conflict – but we do need to get our act together. Where do I start?
CrisMarie: First off, remember that conflict is natural when smart, passionate people are working together towards a share goal. So even if your team isn’t bumping into conflict now, it will.
Teams that do not regularly bump into conflict often are playing it safe or not playing together. Maybe their work is segregated. Maybe each person is focused on their own area. That’s not a team. It’s a bunch of individuals who are working alone, together.
So a great place to start is to come up with a collective goal, what we call a Rallying Cry. This will drive your team to play together and wrestle with what the best plan, solution, or idea is. Then each team member has skin in the game and you’ll win together. That would really move your business forward.
Susan: If it’s true your team doesn’t have any conflict – that’s a problem! My guess is that your team does have conflict… but it’s getting suppressed. This might look like less than full engagement in meetings.
It might be that meetings are focused more on reporting and less on problem solving (or looking forward). It might be that your team doesn’t have collective goals, so they are operating more like solo champions than a championship team.
Start by determining what is most important to move the business forward. Do this as a group. Ask: What’s the #1 thing we can do to move the business forward? Right there, you may find some great debate!
After you agree on that number one goal, make sure you also agree to all be accountable to each other. This is a commitment that each team member will speak up and weigh in moving forward. That’s a great first step to tap into the collective intelligence in the room, but you’ve got to mean it.
Q: Our team is doing pretty well, how would this help us get
CrisMarie: The work we do with teams is about helping them learn how to use conflict to get to strategic and tactical clarity that drives collective creativity.
When teams have the right level of conflict, it’s powerful. They can have those vital conversations – the ones where they wrestle with an idea to make sure they come up with best plan, idea, or solution.
Working with us, you’ll come away with that organizational clarity, making sure you are doing the right things, and everyone is rowing in the same direction. Plus, I’ll bet you’ll clear up some interpersonal differences the process!
Susan: Some of the best teams we have worked with already have a commitment to be frank and honest with each other. In other words, they are in conflict and they know how to use it.
They work with us because they know there’s more they can do to maximize their collective intelligence and creativity. These are growth-oriented teams who know that as they evolve, next-level challenges will pop up. And they want to make sure they are meeting those challenges with all the smarts and firepower they’ve got.
CrisMarie and I aren’t trainers. We deal with a team’s issues in real-time. This means that teams that are really good at being vulnerable and curious can really dive into their issues… we can just assist in ensuring the playing field is optimal and will call foul if needed! This is when and where the best of collective creativity can happen!
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