Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#66: Successful Strategies for Navigating Team Conflicts

September 20, 2023     37 minutes

Join us on the Agile Mentors Podcast as Brian unveils the secrets to resolving conflicts to achieve win-win outcomes in your Agile teams.


Whether you're a Scrum Master, Product Owner, or an Agile coach, conflicts are inevitable and can become messy if not navigated successfully.

Today, on the Agile Mentors Podcast, Brian guides us through various conflict types and shares techniques for effectively managing and resolving team conflicts. These methods encompass the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI) framework, facilitative listening, and the use of team agreements to validate differences, ensuring that everyone feels safe and acknowledged, creating win-win solutions for all involved.

Listen Now to Discover:

[02:29] - How we handle conflict on our teams.
[02:55] - Conflict is necessary for teams to challenge each other and make better decisions (Chernobyl disaster example).
[04:38] - Conflict is inevitable and can take various forms, including messy and sticky situations that are not always desirable.
[04:56] - Brian shares a past conflict management failure when as a Scrum Master, he inadequately handled a conflict between two team members, leading to a breakdown in communication and a loss of mutual respect.
[09:15] - The need for Scrum Masters to develop corporate counselor skills, such as emotional intelligence and empathy, to effectively counsel and navigate conflicts within teams.
[10:44] - Rational vs. Emotional conflict and the importance of shifting the focus back to the rational side for productive conflict resolution.
[12:15] - Brian shares the difference between constructive and destructive conflict and the signs of each.
[13:34] - The three types of conflicts in a team: task, relationship, and process conflicts and why it’s vital to understand the differences between these types of conflicts in order to navigate them effectively.
[16:20] - Mountain Goat Software has designed our Scrum Certification classes to combine the best learning with the best engagement. If you want to see it in action, check out our training pages at Mountain Goat Software today.
[17:22] - Each person has a default way of responding to conflict. You can identify your own response style using the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI) framework which divides responses into five categories: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating.
[18:32] - Competing involves prioritizing one's own position but it can be justifiable in certain situations.
[19:55] - Collaborating aims for win-win solutions through creative problem-solving, especially in scenarios with conflicting preferences.
[21:01] - The third C offers an acceptable solution that satisfies both individual's concerns.
[21:34] - Avoiding, marked by its unassertive and uncooperative nature, ultimately striving to sweep the conflict under the rug.
[22;42] - Accommodating prioritizes the relationship above all else, willingly setting aside one's own stance to adopt the opposing point of view.
[23:40] - Your default conflict resolution approach isn't necessarily bad; it can be effective in certain situations. Brian offers tips for recognizing and responding to these approaches in conflict situations.
[25:08] - Psychological safety in a team is vital for healthy conflict resolution. Brian explains what that means and how to build it within your team.
[28:10] - How team agreements can help prevent conflicts from turning destructive.
[28:40] - Putting ground rules in place on your team so that when conflict occurs, you can navigate it successfully.
[30:42] - Facilitative listening helps address problems without attacking personalities. Brian shares his techniques to assist others in hearing. Legitimizing differences by acknowledging and validating opposing viewpoints can help resolve conflicts within a team.
[32:29] - Overlooking human dynamics can lead to team failure but legitimizing differences helps everyone feel safe and heard.
[35:11] - If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support us is to share it with others and subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you have feedback or ideas for the show, just email For further discussion join the Agile Mentors Community where we discuss each podcast episode.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI)
Certified Scrum Master Training and Scrum Certification
Certified Scrum Product Owner Training
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®
Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner®
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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This episode’s presenter is:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He's passionate about making a difference in people's day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.