The Avoider

Initially, when I received my Thomas-Killmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) score, immediately I was surprised. I did not feel the assessment accurately identified my true method of conflict resolution. Further complicating my results, I knew I had not answered the questions honestly because I did not want to be perceived as harsh, cold, hard – a coconut. I have been described as a coconut in the past. Like a coconut, I have a tough exterior, that takes time and effort to extract the sweetness. Once opened, you will find a genuine, kind, and candid person who wants the best and encourages all to expect the best in themselves.  

As it turned out, “Avoider” was my highest assessment rating. Personally, I knew there was no way on earth did I avoid confrontation, or was I an avoider. I have no problem expressing my thoughts and giving my unsolicited opinion to anyone, strangers included. After going deeper into the results, I realized that the score was accurate at best. It was not an Aha Moment, more like “Eek”! I have always heard that you do not have to participate in every argument or disagreement. However, in a team environment, it is quite the opposite. It is essential to address an issue when it happens.

In regards to my previous teaming blog, SM needed to know that the unprofessional behavior would not be tolerated; therefore, the written notice was issued. I confronted that issue one-on-one immediately. But as a group –no! I avoided bringing the two members together for months. Yes, months! I did not want to deal with the behaviors and attitudes of the GA and SM, believing they were justified in how they acted towards each other. And, I knew I was wrong by not creating a team dynamic from the beginning. Therefore, I avoided attempts to unify the staff member and allowed conflict to continue to fester until “I” was ready to deal with it. As TKI stated, “Avoiders value their time and energy and being prepared, so they exercise prudence and caution and try to avoid getting involved in “messy” or dangerous issues” (p. 6). There will be conflict on a team because no two people are alike. However, conflict is valuable. The value in being able to reframe how conflict is managed is the ability to “keep constructive conflict over issues from degenerating into dysfunctional interpersonal conflict, to encourage…arguments without destroying the ability to work as a team” (Eisenhardt, Kahwajy, and Bourgeois, 1997, p. 2). Unfortunately, my team experienced conflict. However, conflict was valuable in enabling me to see the dysfunction of my current team. The ability to right the ship now will decrease any dysfunction in future teams. Also, it is a reminder that “teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability” (Lencioni 2002).


Eisenhardt, K.M., Kahwajy, J.L., & Bourgeois, L.J. (1997). How management teams can have a good fight. Harvard business review, 75 4, 2-10.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Thomas, K.E., & Kilmann, R.H. (2007). Thomas – Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument Profile and Report [Measurement Instrument]. Retrieved  from

Working Together As A Team

“Successful teams develop. They grow over time, like any relationship, slowly developing their capacities to operate effectively” (Kahn, 2009, p. 11). This statement is thought-provoking and accurate, whether you are leading a team in a work environment, student team, or church organization.  As the leader, I did not provide the proper tools to be successful and to enable the team to function efficiently through the mechanism of effective communication. A successful team must go through the process of learning and growing together. It is crucial to equip them to work individually and collaboratively to achieve the overall goals of the unit. Kahn (2009) states that “teams create the foundations for effective teamwork by focusing on three key dimensions: missions, roles, and boundaries” (p. 56). The mission establishes common ground for all on the team and it is the starting point for building buy-in. The organization mission and the unit goals were communicated to the staff member (SM) and graduate assistant (GA). However, as the leader, I did not thoroughly explain how the roles and boundaries would intertwine, and ultimately, this led to an absence of trust for the team; those points were discussed in my previous post.

 This is a new team. Roles needed to be defined. Kahn (2009) states, “Roles are instrumental for work getting done. They ensure that the efforts of individual members will be in sync with one another” (p. 56). Each member understood their role, but not how their roles impacted the team. This breakdown of communication was one-on-one interaction versus a team discussion. From the start, it was imperative that the staff member, graduate assistant, and I got together to discuss the roles and how it intertwined and the financial impact on the unit. Due to the lack of effective communication, cross-training came to a standstill, duties were not performed in a timely fashion, and members of the staff were unsure of their contribution to the team, and their individuality was lost.

 Kahn (2009) indicated that “Boundaries separate people from their environments” (p. 56). Unfortunately, the team did not have a shared identity. The voice to speak up had been silence due to not understanding their role on the team. SM did not feel she was impactful and it showed by her lack of participating outside of the scope of the task. I had a false expectation that they would forge a bond without my assistance, which created a hostile environment.

 Every relationship takes work. A good team must have the proper tools to start on a good foundation. I am committed to moving this team forward and getting it back on track. As I stated in the previous blog, we will do a getting to know you exercise. Also, I have created and shared a workflow chart showing the big picture of the team. The workflow chart also shows the contribution they add to the unit and the impact they make to the organization as it relates to the financial needs of the students. Also, I have scheduled weekly meetings so that they can bring their thoughts, concerns, and ideas to be discussed as a team.


Kahn, W. (2009). The student’s guide to successful project teams. New York: Routledge.