When all parties are agreeable, collaboration is easy. It is when the parties are not agreeable that a leader goes to work. Disagreements can come from many sources and for many reasons, but the key to connecting opposing positions starts with understanding all sides. How can a leader create a collaborative effort when disagreement is present?
- Start with understanding – Often, our most significant opportunities in the execution of strategy or project are found by listening carefully to the voices of friction in the room. A leader needs to make sure this voice of disagreement or fear is heard. Avoid writing stories in your head about why a person or group disagrees. It is straightforward to assume why they disagree. It is also easy to use perceptions of the person or group to conclude why. Avoid these tendencies by listening actively to these issues because a leader knows that assumptions and judgments can be wrong.
- Communicate this new information to the entire team – This critical step will allow those dismissing the fears and concerns of the naysayers will understand what challenges were learned from the dissenters. At this point, the leader is positioned to make educated decisions on how the course or timeline of the project or implementation plan will be amended.
- Proceed with the adaptations – Naysayers and risk-averse team members are critical because they bring light to potential risks or problems that have been overlooked. After understanding and validating what is real versus imagined fears and concerns, adapt the plan.
- Measure and monitor progress – After the plan is set, confirm that the new milestones are being hit and the project plan is on target completion, on time, and within budget completion. If milestones are being missed, the leader needs to quickly ascertain if these missed deadlines are within or outside of the team’s control.
- When outside the team’s control – a direct conversation with this third party is required to influence their adherence to the project plan. Sometimes when the third party knows they are being monitored and measured, they will get on board with the program. Sometimes the schedule is too aggressive, and it is determined the third party will need to add more time and resource to the project. Sometimes an incentive for timely completion can be added to the contract.
- When inside the team’s control – Determine if it is because of an overly optimistic delivery schedule or poor performance. An excessively optimistic delivery schedule can often be adjusted within a range. A performance issue must be diagnosed and fixed. There are no excuses for anything less than expert execution.
- Continue to listen carefully to the naysayers throughout the project – As with any strategy project, an organization or team takes on, it must be a process of continual learning, tweaking, and adjusting. Making these decisions quickly and with integrity to the strategic or project plan is the leader’s role.
Next time you are responsible for the execution of a project or strategy, pay heed to those on the team that thinks differently than you. You might learn enough to make this team execute beyond expectations.