Whether you're having a conversation with a colleague, co-founder or another decision-maker within your company, disagreements will happen. This is inevitable. It can also be a good thing.
Having people who are willing to passionately make their case for different ideas, approaches and strategies is the foundation of a dynamic organization. It's important, though, to make sure that agreement is ultimately reached so that action can result and progress be made.
In the startup world, things move fast and an impasse can severely affect a company's momentum. So agreeing to disagree is just not an option.
My business partner and I disagree regularly. One of our strengths as a team is that we think about solving problems differently. We both know that we must figure out a way to make these disagreements constructive and use our different points of view to find the optimal path forward for the company.
Based on our experience, I recommend you consider the following approaches to make the most out of your disagreements:
1. Listen to the other person.
Perhaps you're familiar with the phrase “you’re listening, but you are not hearing me.” Communication is the key to any good relationship whether personal or business related. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in a “me vs. you” mentality. Instead, show respect for the validity of the other person’s position. This helps create an environment where both people are more willing to take the best parts of each other’s ideas.
Ask yourself, Are we really disagreeing? You may find that both of you are on the same page but you're articulating your thoughts differently.Are you both operating with the same set of information or facts? Make sure both of you are fully informed before moving forward. One small detail can dramatically change how each person might approach solving a problem.
2. What type of debate is it?
A disagreement can also be caused by someone not being clear about what's being discussed. Are you arguing about tactics or strategy? Are you arguing about the end goal or the steps to take?
When there are numerous decision-makers in a fast-paced environment, it’s easy to forget to update a team member about a change in a project. Each person should fully and clearly articulate his (or her) position to ensure that both individuals are working toward the same objective. If you aren’t and the project has changed direction, refocus on reaching agreement on the result desired and then concentrate on the best ways to get there.
3. Know the other party.
Knowing how a person analyzes a situation can be helpful when steering a conversation to a breakthrough. Think about the person you're having a conversation with. Does this person often play devil’s advocate as a way to ensure that an idea is sound?
Remember that people can analyze a certain situation differently. Some people look at a problem from all angles and think of all the consequences before proceeding, while others prefer to go full steam ahead down one path. Then if it isn’t working well, they reassess. Their preferred approach may change how they discuss the strategy, tactics and solution.
Once you know each other’s style of thinking and analyzing, you can then steer a discussion toward creating a plan and nailing down specific actions to take.
If you're still having trouble agreeing, deference should be given to the person who will own the execution of the decision. Even if you don’t fully agree, the company will always benefit from having the person driving the project fully believing in the plan.
By slowing down and truly listening to another person, understanding and acknowledging what you are disagreeing about and knowing how to structure a decision, you can turn disagreements into productive conversations that will lead to a better plan of action -- and results.