A new approach to resolving differences and helping teams be at their best
"The way teams disagree tells you everything you need to know about their potential to succeed. "
The Mindset Difference
Disagreements at work are inevitable. We humans naturally differ over the when, why, what, who and how of getting stuff done well.
We don't always disagree healthily though.
Taking issues personally, being overly competitive and believing 'that's just how it is around here' jeopardises high-value decisions and can derail major projects.
Healthy disagreement circumvents these behavioural risks.
It helps teams turn round difficult, toxic situations by rebuilding trust and getting performance back on track.
It enables newly forming teams - those just beginning a project say - craft a culture that thrives on differences and brings out the best in people from the start.
Our bespoke consulting approach helps teams accomplish both. By uncovering and dissolving the often-hidden mindsets that inadvertently get in their way, teams find new, insightful solutions that are anything but same-old, same old.
What makes your approach different?We build trust with team members swiftly. We can't help them succeed without this. It emerges in open dialogue in which we listen intently for what's resonating positively and negatively. We're keen to know what they care about and what makes them take pride in their work. We avoid blame like the plague: it usually kills any of chance of change stone dead. Instead we normalise the fact any one of us can get caught up on trains of thought that make for unhealthy disagreement. This helps build teams' confidence to look at usually-unseen thinking habits that hold them back. Once these are noticed and taken less seriously the way is paved for welcoming differences in and using them to create new, insightful ways forward. What we rarely do is recommend typical ways of trying to stimulate behaviour change - financial incentives and penalties, more rules and policy diktats, personnel changes, skills training, and restructuring - for example. These take time and are costly compared to teams becoming sufficiently self-aware to know when conversations are veering off track and making corrections accordingly in real time. And that's what makes the difference. Teams build a unique culture they enjoy being in because it helps them perform at their best. There are no elephants in the room to worry about. Team members feel more comfortable in their own skin.
What kind of teams do you support?Senior leadership and management teams usually. We find if healthy disagreement becomes a norm there it has a ripple affect across the whole of an organisation or project. Inside organisations, for example, how agreement is reached affects relationships between executive teams and their followers, as well as between different departments and divisions. Similalry in a multi-company project environment tensions between client teams and their main and sub contractors can either stimulate progress or place desired outcomes in jeopardy.
How is your approach structured?We tailor each assignment to your circumstances and use the iterative design priniciple - ensuring whatever comes next builds on what happened previously and the new needs arising. Tailoring and iteration give you flexibility re timing. For example we could work intensivley over a few days and weeks with teams in a particualry pressing situation, or work over a longer time frame where urgency is less of an issue. The only fixed parts are at the beginning where we need time to build team members' trust in us, and at the end we review the successes and struggles along the way so that we and the team/s capture the richness of what we've accomplished together. In between these points we're entirely guided by what would be of most help to each team and facilitate either 1:1, 1-team only or multi-team dialogue accordingly.
Is your approach similar to a training course?Not really. We like to think of ourselves as 'guides on the side' - helping team members explore how thinking habits hold them and collegaues back - not 'sages on the stage' telling them what to do. Our work is best thought of as a series of meaningfull and relavant conversations intended to help participants uncover the breakthroughs they need to get themselves back on track. That said, such conversations are helped significantly by understanding a) what can distract any of us when listening to each other and b) why we humans experience situations the way we do via our thoughts, feelings and actions. It's by exploring both in some depth at relevant moments in a conversation that team members start to see what has or is likely to trouble them in a new light. When that happens their capacity to have insighful new thinking of their own soars.
What sectors have you supported?We've had the privilege of working with teams engaged in projects mainly. This has been especially so in the Construction Sector where the increasing drumbeat of a project's time, costs and risks often leads to unhealthy rather healthy disagreement. Our approach offers a way of circumventing this challenge 'up-front' - as a project is getting under way - and /or when relationships are strained and need turning around.
See the article Roger was asked to write about his experiences of turning disagreements into opportunities for the Biz Catalyst 360 website, it's available here.