Agreeing to Disagree

tug of war“Why can’t they all just get along?”  I heard this question from a colleague. She is working for a company where the leadership team does not play nice.  They fight among themselves and there are a few “leaders” (I use the word loosely) who have no compunction about publicly bad-mouthing others on their team and in different departments.

As a parent, I very quickly learned that my children needed a team working together on their behalf. That meant, that in some cases, meetings were held behind closed doors, differences of opinion discussed and decisions made. Sometimes, one team leader had to make concessions, sometimes it meant agreeing to disagree but once the doors opened, a consistent, unified message was needed.

This holds true in the workplace as well.  Opinions, insight and suggestions from a broad range of stakeholders are important, but just as important is a consistent, unified message once a decision has been made and everyone, regardless of their original viewpoint, needs to own their role in the organization’s success.

Conflicting ideas and opinions are natural and to be expected when a diverse group of people, with different backgrounds, experiences and personalities work together. Those differences have the potential to create strength and diversity, but in many cases, are instead used as weapons and end up building walls.  When people do not know how, or choose not, to disagree respectfully, ideas stagnate, factions form and opposing camps battle against each other instead of working together to achieve success.

That negative energy is a very real weight felt by everyone in the organization.  Some of the people relying on these managers for guidance, support and direction pick a camp and the battle gets bigger. Other duck and run for cover; they hold on to ideas that could potentially benefit the organization. And others just leave, choosing to work for an organization with less mess and dysfunction.

The variety of ideas and opinions brought to the table when people with different backgrounds, experiences and personalities work together, is a gift.  Treasure it. Respect it.  Nourish it.

(This is a modified repost of a blog originally shared way back in July 2012.  As I held my first team meeting yesterday, I got a better sense as to the range of experience and knowledge around the table. Better yet, I got a sense of how well they work together … that is a gift and one to be nurtured.)

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