Beyond the Build


The Case for Conflict

We don’t always find the answer or make the right decision inside the “yes” bubble. Let me explain.

We’ve all been at a meeting where everyone around the table is an optimist, or perhaps eager to please. There is a lot of head nodding and agreement with the leadership. While the intentions are golden, this does not usually advance the ball. Asking questions, inserting a little skepticism and conflict can push boundaries. It may not be fun in the moment, but in my experience, a little push-back leads to the best possible result.

At a recent meeting, we spent what seemed like an eternity discussing a particular solution to a management problem with a fair amount of disagreement. One attendee made a suggestion that seemed to come out of left field, but after we all had a few days to think, it was the right answer. I’m glad this person spoke up and faced the headwinds.

That story reminds me of a time when I had the opportunity to tour the U.S. Supreme Court with a friend who was the director of personnel. We went behind bench where the judges sit, and my friend shared that the judges use this area to shake hands before work begins. While there will be differences of opinion, they all listen with respect. This may be a good tradition for meetings, where fireworks or disagreements are bound to happen.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.