Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of Effective Confrontation

You don’t need to see yourself as being “on a team” to benefit from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a fantastic best-selling fable penned by Patrick Lencioni. If you want to improve how you interact with others, and how they interact with you, I highly recommend this book.

Written in crisp, compelling style, and culled from his real-life experiences as a business consultant, The Five Dysfunctions is one of those page-turners aided and abetted by chapters sometimes briefer than a James Joyce run-on sentence.

One common woe that Lencioni emphasizes and rings especially true: our rampant, debilitating reluctance, even avoidance-at-all-costs mindset, about confronting others (on our team) when they are messing up.

Rather than deal with it head-on, we avoid it altogether and resort to gossip or resentment or some other dysfunctional response.

In short, we cultivate the false hope that the problem will go away on its own, or through someone else’s willingness to step up.

One of the reasons why, I believe, we so dread these dialogues: there are so many poor examples of going about confrontation that we associate the act with negativity and strife and stress. But, the word itself, in layman’s terms, simply means “to face head on.”

When employing tact and professionalism, confrontation can be an exceedingly positive thing. One of my mentors in this area is Joe Takash (, a top business consultant and presentation coach who, fittingly enough, turned me on to The Five Dysfunctions. Over a year ago, when I was assisting Joe with one of his all-day trainings, I grew too raucous at one point--the byproduct of too much caffeine too early in the morning.

Joe gently took me aside, a few hours later, and provided corrective instruction in such an encouraging, thoughtful way that I wound up feeling empowered. In the hands of most anyone else, the feedback would have been more pointed and harsh, leaving me discouraged and deflated.

This is no "soft" touchy-feely issue, as Joe so persuasively points out, but a bottom-line business imperative because it nurtures relationships for the long term and inspires people to greater effort.

For more confrontation tips, see my essay “Feedback: Do You Seek It To Glow or To Grow?”:

And to learn more about The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, go here:

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