Dare To Disagree

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It is our human nature to want to get along, to avoid confrontation and to have a desire to be liked. But when it comes to running a good business, arguing and challenging one another are essential to success. Remind yourself that you are working in a team because many brains are better than one. Diversity in thought is a good thing and facilitating an environment where your team feels comfortable to speak up is key. Remind yourself that arguing and debating are signs that people care enough to bring strong opinions forward and battle it out for the best one to make the company better.

Arguing is how ideas get vetted and prevent you from committing to the first one, which is usually the boss’s idea or from the loudest person in the room (usually me 😉). In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins argues that great companies confront the brutal facts relentlessly:

“All the good-to-great companies had a penchant for intense dialogue. Phrases like ‘loud debate,’ ‘heated discussions,’ and ‘healthy conflict’ peppered the articles and interview transcripts from all the companies. They didn’t use discussions as a sham process to let people ‘have their say’ so that they could ‘buy into a predetermined decision. The process was more like a heated scientific debate, with people engaged in a search for the best answers.”

The key to confrontation is to argue well. Don’t bring up an idea because you want to win or you want to stroke your ego. Bring it up because you want the best outcome for the company and the team; it can’t be about anything else.

However, this is easier said than done. In a heated situation, it is hard to detach yourself from your personal biases, put away your ego, and to not let your preconceived notions get in the way. If the person you are arguing with has been wrong before, it can be difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt and to continue the conversation without judgment. This is called the horn effect — you aren’t terrible, you are just human.

But to overcome this, you have to remind yourself of the opposite. Do you want everyone to agree with you and never challenge your decisions? Do you want people to lose their passion and check out? Do you want to stop growing as an individual and as an organization? Do you want to become the single point of failure at your company?

When people regularly agree with you and don’t challenge anything it is usually due to two reasons:

  1. They are afraid. They are scared you will fire them, explode and make a scene, or make them look stupid.
  2. They think, ‘what’s the point.’ They don’t see the value in speaking up. They’ve done it before or have seen someone else do it and have realized that the arguments are brushed aside with nothing accomplished.

These are the top reasons why people don’t speak up at work. So if you are experiencing an agreeable environment and no one is challenging you or anyone else, this may be a red flag that your work culture is not set up for honest conversations. You should be worried, and you should dig deeper as soon as possible. Encourage conversations, dialogue and confrontations. If you want the best ideas to surface and an engaged workforce, you have to be okay with friction.

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