Trust and Conflict: A Manager’s Greatest Assets

by Greg Maciolek

How many times as a manager have you “faked it” when faced with admitting to your team that you didn’t know the answer or that you needed help to get something done? You didn’t say you’d find out and get back to the team – you just said you’d take care of it.

Too many leaders feel they can never admit to their team, their associates or even themselves that they don’t know the answer or where to go next, that they were wrong or that they really need help to complete a project. Managers have been raised to never admit they were wrong or that they weren’t as responsible as they ask their team to be.

When you think of the word “trust”, you think of believing in the honesty and reliability of others. Need that. However, there is another side of trust and that is to be able to be vulnerable. That is to admit you made a mistake, don’t know the answer or that you needed their input to reach the correct decision. You’ve been told that this is a sign of weakness when in reality it is a sign of strength.

In a previous article I wrote about Tiger Woods needing a coach to improve his game. If you haven’t noticed, he’s won six PGA tournaments this year and won the FedEx Cup again. The bottom line is this: if the manager doesn’t show any vulnerability, the team won’t either. So you get what I call “bobble head doll meeting”.  The leader comes in and presents a solution and all of the staff starts nodding their heads like bobble head dolls and agrees with the boss rather than criticize the solution because they don’t want to commit political suicide. The team leaves with a false sense of agreement but with no commitment or responsibility to implementing the decision. The leader should have just sent a memo. It would have been just as effective.

Another issue average managers don’t like to deal with is conflict. Superior managers relish it. Why? Because they know that when they are in a problem solving or decision making process, the more ideas on the table lead to more discussion and in turn more conflict because the team is sorting through different ways to reach an objective. Productive conflict exists only if there is trust among the team members.

Conflict lies on a continuum from no conflict on one end to personal attacks on the other. Somewhere in the middle of that continuum is a fine line that separates conflict from personal attacks. The closer you work near the fine line, the more conflict you’ll have but better results and more commitment to implementing the decision made. Additionally, the more participation in constructive conflict by team members, the greater the levels of satisfaction, commitment, responsibility and better decisions and lower frustration levels.

When I was a commander of my flying group, I tested this process for a year. When we were having a problem solving or decision making meeting, I provided my input last. Seventy-five percent of the time, I never gave my idea for resolution. The team had either come up with a solution as good as mine or they far surpassed what I had envisioned as the solution. When team members know that their input is wanted and valued, they come prepared and provide great input.

So think about trust and conflict and how you deal with it as a leader. Can you admit to not knowing everything? Are your meetings boring? Is there a lot of head-nodding going on? Don’t forget, you as the leader create the environment in which they live. What’s it like working for you? Would you want to work for yourself? Until next time.

©Greg Maciolek – Integrated Management Resources, Inc. October 2009

Greg Maciolek is President and Founder of Integrated Management Resources, Inc., Knoxville,TN. Greg is a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and author. He focuses on assessments for hiring, promoting and developing staff, leadership development, executive coaching and is a workforce expert. He can be contacted by email at
or by phone at 865.675.5901. Website is

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