“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” -Desmond Tutu
We have all been there… sitting in a board room, discussing a very important topic and feeling like you’re point is not being understood. This can be especially true and frustrating for entrepreneurs explaining their strategy that they believe will enable them to grow to that next level. What is often not realized, is that differences in opinion can be the catalyst to move ideas forward in the best direction.
For example, consider the following:
You’ve invited a team of trusted experts to join you in a brainstorming session focused on introducing a new marketing campaign to drive sales. You are convinced that you need to go in direction A, but there are opinions around the table that direction B is the better way to go.
What did you do next? Did you:
- Tune out of the conversation?
- Repeat your points with a raised voice to be heard?
- Defer to the other opinions in the room?
- Alter your argument to try and get your point across?
Most of us would probably pick a, b or c… but d is where the real value lies.
If you anticipate that you might run up against a differing opinion, it’s best to go in prepared with arguments that are well supported, researched and thought out; much like someone going into a debate would prepare by anticipating alternate opinions and take the time to look at an argument from all angles. Where are the weak points that can be exposed? Who will likely offer conflicting views and how can your argument be positioned differently to address these weak points? This small amount of preparedness might just allow you to re-position an argument mid-discussion and sway the conversation in a more positive direction.
“This isn’t something easily accomplished when one is too close to the topic at hand; especially if that topic has a personal connection for you,” says Roy Murad, Business Advisor & Entrepreneur. “The passion that you bring to your business every day must be channeled in a positive way. After all, your passion is focused on executing ideas and strategies that are best for your company and if you are too blinded by your passion to consider alternate points-of-view, you may be missing an opportunity.“
The following tips will help you communicate more effectively during times of disagreement:
LISTEN: Your greatest weapon in an argument is to listen. If you actively listen, you will be more open to, at the very least, understanding the other points-of-view around the table. When no-one listens, and everyone is purely focused on getting their point across and defending their position, everyone becomes stuck in a vicious cycle of proving who is right while missing the real opportunity that collaboration delivers –better ideas, validated through productive debate.
STAY PROFESSIONAL: Never relate to a disagreement as a personal attack. If you go into a discussion with the understanding that everybody’s intent is to move the business forward in the best possible way, you will listen more openly and effectively, understanding that differences of opinion can push you to a better position, or at the very least validate a decision. And that’s a great opportunity!
DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: When you listen to others’ ideas, listen openly with the intent to understand and consider. If you go into a discussion close-minded, you will miss the opportunity of a potentially better outcome, not just validation of your own thoughts. Changing your position is not a sign of weakness, but of a great leader.
READ AND MANAGE THE ROOM: As a leader it is important to keep the conversation moving in a productive direction. That can’t happen without open appreciation for others’ ideas, with the opportunity to ladder up to better outcomes. It is up to you to nurture a culture that welcomes open sharing and professional disagreement. Not every thought and idea is going to be a good one, but respectful debate is a constructive approach to excellence. Set the ground rules in advance and lead by example. If the meeting is no longer productive, remind participants of the why you are all gathered and consider taking a break until cool heads can return.
TAKE ACTION: This item might just be the most important. Nothing is more frustrating to people than being asked for their ideas and not being heard or not seeing the outcome of debates put into action, whether the decision was to go with their point of view or another. They feel their time, energy and knowledge have been taken for granted. Be transparent about the outcome of the meeting and next steps… even if those next steps are to table the discussion and ideas to a further date once the team has had the opportunity to reflect more on what was discussed. There must always be a next step or a shared vision of what to expect. This simple step is often missed and can lead to a disengaged team.
In the end, don’t be afraid to go ahead and have those difficult conversations. Promote healthy and productive debate. It may just lead to the breakthrough you were all looking for from the outset.
Roy Murad is a father, husband, business advisor, investor, advocate for new business ventures, and consummate entrepreneur. Over the course of 35 years building businesses, guiding companies and identifying strong investment opportunities, while nurturing a thriving family, Roy Murad has amassed a wealth of experience; experience, that may be of value to others who are looking to shape a balanced and successful life experience.