Conflict within Teams: How can we make it Positive?

You work hard. You do the necessary research and due diligence. You prepare before giving a presentation.

How can someone not agree with what you present?

You have analyzed all the information, you’ve considered different options and points of view. If anyone is challenging your conclusion it must be for a personal reason. They just want to attack you. And you have to defend yourself and your work!

This happens to us so many times. And because of that defensive reaction, we miss so many opportunities to keep learning and growing.

No one is aware of their blind spots. That is why the word “blind” is there because it is something we cannot see.

We can be self-aware, we can be empathetic, but there is always the possibility of missing something. Some point of view, some different perspective. And that is OK.

That is why diversity and teamwork are encouraged. Because we see the world according to our experiences and cultures. And those elements will be different for each of us.

We must have grit and be passionate about our work, to create value. And by doing so we can achieve things that we thought were impossible. Like learning how to love driving in traffic.

And we must also be wise enough to know when to use that grit and when to let things flow.

A Story of Positive Conflict

As it was mentioned in the previous article, recently I had the opportunity to go through a positive conflict. And I want to share the experience with you. Because this could help you transform the conflicts in your life into learning opportunities.

Our team is in charge of managing the Large-Cap Growth (LMG) equities portfolio. Which is one of the four different portfolios within the Cougar Investment Fund, where we manage $10 million.

We had to analyze and make an investment recommendation on a company within the Oil & Gas industry. The fist variable we decided to forecast was revenue.

To build a forecasting model, the first challenge is deciding on the variables we will use. The variables must not only make economic sense, but also statistical sense. And have to be variables with data available for previous and future (forecasted) years.

For example, we could find that there is a high correlation between the direction of the migration with elephants in Africa to the movement and direction of the oil prices. We could have a high R-squared and great p-values (I promise I won’t get too technical). But that doesn’t make any economic sense.

And we could also find variables that have a high economic sense for predicting oil and gas prices. And yet when we build the statistical models with those variables, they end up not being great ones.

I had been working with several variables (price of oil, price of natural was, rig count, etc.) and building several models to find the most reliable one. That way we could have a strong forecast for the revenues of the company we were analyzing.

With the help of Winnie, we were able to build an excellent model. It made statistical and economic sense. We had done our due diligence and felt strong about it. And then we had the group meeting.

Long story short, Burhan didn’t feel so strong about our model. How could he not? My first quick thoughts, which are the most common in this scenario, were to feel attacked.

He didn’t know about all the work we’ve been doing! Why didn’t he have a model? So easy for him to just criticize and not contribute.

And then before reacting, I told myself. “He is on our team too and he wants to have the best result possible”. No better contribution than to be de devil’s advocate and push your team to go beyond the boundaries of the comfort zone. Which is a role no everyone is willing to take, no one wants to be the bad guy.

Thanks to Burhan's different point of view we were able to build a better forecasting model than the one we already had. The collaboration of the whole team allowed us to present a strong investment recommendation.

How to Learn from Conflicts

Thanks to a quick change from reactive to proactive, we were able to build a strong analysis. We had a great experience presenting our investment recommendation to the Senior Portfolio Managers, where once again we were given feedback. But now we were ready. We knew that whoever gives feedback does so because they care about the other person. 

A quick checklist we can use to turn conflicts into learning opportunities:

  • Ask yourself 3 times: Why is the other person doing this?

I guarantee that in one of those answers you will find something positive. This will make you be proactive instead of reactive about the situation.

  • Develop a Positive Response to Feedback

If we talk, we will be hearing what we already know. But if we listen, we might just learn something new. Even when the feedback is clearly done with negative intentions, you can learn from it. You can learn something about the other person and how they see the world.

  • Write it Down

Anytime you receive feedback you should write it down, don’t just trust your memory. That way you will be able to avoid making the same mistakes. We want to make mistakes, that is the best way to learn and grow because it means we are pushing our boundaries. But we should never make the same mistakes over and over again.

The Power of Focus

In the moment the feedback is given to us we have to make a choice. What are we going to focus on? As Tony Robbins has explained, we give power to what we focus on. Because what we focus on becomes our reality.

We can focus on the negative part of the criticism which is the attack on our ego, our thoughts, and ideas. And that will make us be defensive. Or we can focus on the opportunity to grow, the opportunity for improvement, and on learning from the perspective of another human being. 

Being able to control our thoughts and focus is not an easy task. It is a skill that has to be developed. And there are several practices of mindfulness, like meditation, that can help us develop the skill of observing or thoughts. Once we are able to observe them, before picking sides (negative or positive), we will be able to shape the way we interpret everything that happens around us.

Tony does a better job at explaining the power of focus:


You can find your dream job. It is not a fantasy; many others have done so. It will take work, and it won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

Developing grit is a must before you can find your passion and develop talents. And having a strong purpose is a key component to be able to power through the obstacles that you will find on this journey.

Grit will allow you to turn most situations into learning experiences. Even conflict will be a positive situation.

There are several habits you can incorporate in your life, like intermittent fasting, which will help develop a more proactive mindset.

But in order for all this information to be valuable, you must act on it.

For more resources on how to take action, go to Your MBA Purpose. We have several guides (most of them free) and blogs which can be valuable to you.

 Learning and sharing knowledge are my passions. Let’s connect if those are yours too.