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Disagree Productively

The most effective teams have regular, intense debates. The ability to disagree without causing offense is a crucial precondition for good communication and problem-solving.

Teammates want the opportunity to challenge each other. As long as discussions are respectful and everyone gets a chance to contribute equally, most people thrive on this kind of debate, finding it intellectually stimulating and helpful for unearthing the best solutions.

Moreover, teams typically feel more bonded and more effective when they have challenging discussions regularly, trading a wide range of ideas and perspectives. Even if those debates get a little heated, this is the whole point of diversity and inclusion–it’s about bringing in people whose points of view differ to spark new ideas and ways of looking at things. But facilitating these conversations takes some ground rules, like these:

• Treat each other respectfully, and challenge the position, not the person.

• Listen to one another carefully before responding, and ask for clarification if needed. Gather facts; don’t jump to conclusions.

• Come to the debate ready to present facts and data, not suppositions.

• Do not compete to “win.” Debates are a chance to find and test the best ideas and to learn, not to score points.

• After the team makes a decision collaboratively, everyone needs to respect and support it, even if they have their own reservations.

If you want to build a great company, permit your team to disagree with you, and listen to their feedback because it’s not about you; it’s all about providing the best service and products that make a difference in the lives of the people you are entrusted to serve.

Credits: Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

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