How I Use Disagreements To Build Stronger Teams
devising strong, meaty action
plans. Yet, the energy was all off.
Team members seemed deflated
instead of enthused. So I decided
to do a check in.
I asked everyone to show, using
hand signals from fist to five, how
they felt about bringing this plan
forward to the organization. Here’
the fist to five criteria I used:
Fist = over my dead body
1 – 2 = serious concerns and not
really on board
3 = I can live with it but….
4= feeling pretty darn good
5 = can’t wait to get started
Based on the quality of the work
they had done to develop strong
plans and recommendations, I
expected all 4s and 5s. What I saw
around the room astounded me.
Responses ranged from 2.5 – 5.
I couldn’t believe there were still
3 team members with serious –
stop the presses – concerns. As
we started talking about it, here’s
some of what I heard:
“I still don’t believe this project
should take precedence over our
other priorities. And I don’t think
we can get those and this done.”
“I don’t feel we have proven the
ROI. I’m not convinced it will really
impact our goals.”
I was panicked. All eyes were
looking at me with a “Now what?”
stare, especially the team leader.
Instead of trying to fix things, I
decided to ask some questions.
“Why did you do the action
planning if you still didn’t agree
with the solution?”
“What made you feel that you
couldn’t say this earlier in the day?
What held you back?”
I learned that team members felt
swept along by the process, guilty
about not going along with what
the team leader so obviously
wanted, and eager to demonstrate
alignment and teamwork. We
ended the day in a completely
different place than I expected.
We decided to delay any further
action on this project until it
could be evaluated in the context
of the larger portfolio. It was
disconcerting to me. If I hadn’t
checked in when I had, we would
have ended the day with timelines
and actions that 1/3 of the team
didn’t believe in, and I (and the
team leader) would have left with
a false sense of unity.
I wonder how often this unspoken
disagreement happens on teams.
Maybe all the time? So what can
you do to ensure team members
don’t just give up too early? Here
are 3 ideas you can try.
1. Create real space for
disagreement. Ask good
questions to promote speaking up
●● What’s a contrary view?
●● What have we not considered?
●● Why would this fail?
●● What’s the one thing holding
you back from full support?
●● What has not been said that
we should discuss before we
2. Check in on how people
are feeling. We are focused in
business on facts and data. And
while we shouldn’t make our
decisions solely using “gut feel,”
we shouldn’t ignore our intuition
and our inner voice which usually
expresses our fears and concerns.
3. If you are the team leader,
make sure you are not skewing
the direction based on your
personal views. If you have
already decided, then tell the
team. But if you really want
to hear unbiased views, share
Don’t get me wrong. I love building
team alignment and collaboration.
But I also think we need to work
just as hard to promote divergent
thinking and unpopular views.
Build a stronger team by getting
good at disagreeing!
Audrey Epstein is a partner at The
Trispective Group and the co-author
of The Loyalist Team: How Trust,
Candor, and Authenticity Create Great
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