We just went through a period of disagreement here at Brand Thunder – the classic and clashing viewpoints of the suits and the geeks. I think it ended well, but if this is my last post due to a malicious crashing of my computer, I’ll reconsider.

When your business is evolving this rapidly and timeframes are perpetually short, it’s already an intense environment. Mix in a bunch of strong personalities on a hot topic and you’re bound to have differences of opinion. Ideally, it’s during these times that a fledgling idea can be sculpted into something meaningful. Or, the process can disintegrate and lead to a lot of hurt feelings.

How do you get one result instead of the other? And how do you foster the type of discussion that is challenging, but creates the better end result? We asked the Brand Thunder corporate counselor and received the following advice:

Revisit Covey’s Seven Habits – #5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

This concept has been well known to business people for years, but now, much research has validated its power. It’s the crucial technique that will enhance your team’s functioning. (And by the way, it’s not just for the business setting—it’s a great tool in any relationship.)

If the concept is a little too vague, here are some specific recommendations to follow when you find yourself in a group with differences of opinion:

  1. Give each side uninterrupted time to define their position.
  2. Before the other side speaks, reiterate what the first party said to confirm it’s understood – and ask if it’s correct “What I hear you saying is…”
  3. It may help to whiteboard it. Bulleting the key ideas and positions on a topic. provides a visual reminder of the discussion and viewpoints.
  4. Then move on to collaboration or decision-making.

Keep in mind, understanding does not equal agreement. Nor does understanding mean there will be a change in course or decision. What it does mean is that each side will know they had a chance to have their opinion expressed and understood. Everyone wants to feel that their opinion matters to others.

In the end, you’ll not only have a functional team. You’ll have a better one.

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