Conflict is often the elephant in the room that executives strive to ignore. But no matter how tempting this may be, avoiding conflict gets you nowhere. CIOs must learn the art of productive fighting, says Lynne Eisaguirre, author of The Power of a Good Fight and president of human resources consultancy Workplaces That Work.

Eisaguirre has a few tips for “eating the elephant bite by bite”: Accept conflict as normal. People too often associate conflict with dysfunction, says Eisaguirre, but heated discussions are necessary for business success. Great innovation requires working through tough conversations and making collaborative decisions with your CEO, CFO and IT staff.

Be proactive. Unresolved conflicts can quickly spiral out of control and require the support of a third party. Avoid this destructive path by planning conflict resolution strategies before a blow-up takes place. If your company has hired a new CEO, brainstorm ahead of time how you will handle your inevitable first fight, advises Eisaguirre.

Harness your conflict management skills. Effectively managing conflict takes practice, because it’s counterintuitive to our gut responses. Participate in a conflict training course, and encourage your IT managers to do the same, she says.