It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since the last Christmas. Christmas is a great time of year to get together with family and friends. It’s time for the office party. Yet it is can also be a time of increased stress and disagreement.
Is all disagreement negative? I don’t believe it is. In fact, if the environment is safe enough, disagreement can lead to great creativity and innovation. The key in the middle of disagreement is to stay connected.
How do you deal with disagreement?
For some this will be easier than others. The question to keep in mind as you wrestle with issues is ‘am I going to prioritise relationship over the issue we are in disagreement about?’ In other words, to resist the temptation to disconnect in what can be the challenge of a contrary view to your own.
“If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”
Alfred P. Sloan
To get to the heart of issues and make the decision-making process meaningful will mean allowing all views to be brought to the table. It means the decision has been fully evaluated. When the issues being discussed matter, you should expect contrary views. This process enables better decisions to be made. No one person has all the information needed to make good decisions.
Creating the Opportunity for Better Decisions
How do you create environments which encourage disagreement towards better decisions?
There are keys to making this work. Disagreement is not an excuse for a free for all. For the people involved there needs to be clear rules of engagement. The freedom to disagree is only possible in an environment of trust.
Trust is key
Patrick Lencioni puts it this way:
“By building trust, a team make conflict possible because team members do not hesitate to engage in passionate and sometimes emotional debate, knowing that they will not be punished for saying something that might otherwise be interpreted as destructive or critical.”
Only the leader can set this culture – drawing out those who are not speaking up and closing down those who are louder and not allowing others to speak. Trust starts with the leader.
So, what are some helpful rules of engagement? In my book “I See You” I cover this off in full. However, to give you a sense of what works here are four rules that will help you create an environment where people are free to disagree:
1. Remind the team that ideological conflict* or passionate disagreement around issues increases our creativity, allows us to innovate, and leads to an ability to problem solve more quickly.
2. The leader builds trust through setting an environment of vulnerability – honesty around mistakes, asking for help, focusing on strengths.
3. Every person in the meeting has a valuable contribution to make and should be heard. This requires the people around the table to not only speak but to listen as well. Indeed, to get the best out of each other we must realise that some have difficulty in speaking up or articulating their ideas, we miss out on that wisdom if we don’t engage with them and ask questions to clarify what they see.
4. Engagement, because the issues being discussed matter, should and will involve passion, emotion, and at times frustration as you wrestle with how to put your point of view across in a way that is respectful of your colleagues. This is to be welcomed. It may require someone, especially when dealing with interpersonal conflict, to remind the room that whilst difficult it is necessary to unlocking the team’s potential.
*Using Patrick Lencioni’s definition – “ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean spirited attacks.”
In this framework you will encourage creativity and innovation with results not obtained in any other way. Remember to stay connected, particularly at this time of year.
If you want to find out more about creating high performance teams contact me and book a 30-minute complimentary call.