A company’s greatest asset is its people, but having bright people on your team is one thing and being open to their criticism can be quite another. That is, however, when you need to listen to them most. Working with people who disagree with you is both good for business and good for you as a leader.
Exposing your ideas to the scrutiny of other senior leaders or board members who also believe in the company’s mission delivers benefits all around. Forbes contributor Tori Utley writes, “Building a team with conflicting world views, or even differing views of your industry, will push you to think critically – even more so than you may have in the past.” In addition, “Being challenged before your idea or strategy hits the public eye will be better for your company, ensuring that you’ve thought through every angle honestly and critically.”
You and your company can begin to reap these benefits in just three steps.
1. Hire smart.
“[T]he most important goal of building a team is to hire people who deeply understand, and care for your company’s mission. Without collective diligence and loyalty toward your company’s mission, your team will fall apart in the face of adversity, conflict or disagreements,” Utley writes.
Shared passion for your company’s mission will help keep your team focused on what matters. When it feels like conflict or disagreement is getting out of hand, the team can step back and remind one another of the ultimate goal. This ensures that the dissension is focused appropriately and doesn’t become a personal attack.
To hire individuals who are willing to appropriately challenge decisions, it’s imperative to look candidates in the eyes. When in-person interviews aren’t possible, use a video conferencing solution that enables you to converse with candidates face-to-face. Ask candidates to articulate the company’s mission and why it speaks to them. Engage them in the same type of brainstorming session you’d have during the course of business. Having these discussions face-to-face will allow you to gauge whether the candidate genuinely connects with the company’s mission and is willing to disagree with you when your idea is in conflict with it.
2. Build trust.
“For senior leaders and entrepreneurs, you know your company is only as good as the people in it. Though this concept is often understood, it can be easy for leaders to fall into hierarchical thinking,” Utley writes.
It’s a rare thing these days to have a meeting in which everyone is physically present. A video call can equalize the room so that everyone is heard and seen, thereby encouraging leaders to “think flat.” Another way to avoid hierarchical thinking: don’t hang the people who aren’t in the room on the wall, to be forgotten. Put them in the middle of the room to make them an equal participant.
The intimacy you create by enabling everyone to be visually present will help create a safe zone in which you can share authentic vulnerability. This, in turn, will help build trust. Participants will feel as if their contributions – even if they are counter to the ideas being presented – are welcome and respected.
3. Collaborate (and disagree) often.
Disagreement and collaboration go hand-in-hand. The more you collaborate, the more comfortable everyone will become with disagreement – and the better everyone, and the company, will be for it.
Speaking of her own experience, Utley writes, “Because of differing viewpoints, we were able to talk through various situations honestly and make decisions with a well-rounded understanding of pros and cons, as well as the voice of our consumers.”
These types of dynamic conversations can’t take place if the voice line cuts out every time someone new starts to speak or a remote caller’s dog keeps interrupting. An enterprise-grade video conferencing solution eliminates presence disparity to prevent participants from becoming distracted by the environment or technology. They can be fully present and focused on the matter at hand so that a dialogue can take place naturally.
Disagreement can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But leaders who embrace dissension and create a safe environment where everyone’s input is welcome will make better business decisions and be respected by their teams.