Agreeing to Disagree – Why does this need to be so hard?


Decision making, particularly when a lot is at stake, can be downright messy. Endless meetings, emails, constant back and forth and progress can be so slow. Why? Well, sometimes the research required takes time and that is understandable but then there are the times when the progress is slowed because people disagree and this is seen as a problem.

It will definitely be a problem when people are stuck on one way – their way as the only way.

Rationally, most people will say this isn’t how decisions are made effectively. Yet when push comes to shove, the emotions driving ‘being right’ can take over, there are heated argument and people start to defend their position. That’s where meetings start and end and little progress has been made, people start building fractions and gaining allies to their cause…and around and around it goes…

Now if you crave a work environment that moves faster on decisions without everyone necessarily being in agreement then consider the following.

  1. Be clear on the big picture outcome needed for the business to move forward. Ask the following:
    • How is the problem that needs solved, affecting or stopping the business serving its vision, its purpose?
  2. Make it an expectation that there is to be disagreement in finding the solution/s to the problem.
    • Give team players a role to play in meetings/discussions to enhance options and innovation. Have your team be prepared to be out of their comfort zone in the role they play. Meredith Belbin’s Team Roles is one place to start. See table below. This provides a system-focus to help develop ideas and solutions rather than limit them before they are uncovered.
  3. Allow expressions of disagreement without sabotage. This builds the ‘agree to disagree’ muscle without people feeling they are under treat because their idea/s were not taken on board this time and it helps to uncover what emotion and logic is driving individual points of view.
    • When the best solution has been chosen, ensure all team players have input (some more than others) in the making the solution work, tweaking along the road of implementation.

Table 1: Belbin’s Team Roles (source: The Decision Book, 2011; Krogerus and Tschäppeler)

Team Role

Contribution Character Possible Weakness
Plant Introduces new ideas Unorthodox thinking Absent-minded
Resource Investigator Investigates possibilities, develops contacts Communicative, extrovert Over-optimistic
Coordinator Encourages decision-making processes, delegates Independent, responsible Appears manipulative
Shaper Overcomes obstacles Dynamic, works well under pressure Impatient, provocative
Monitor Examines feasibility Level-headed, strategic, critical Uninspired
Team worker Improves communication, get things moving Cooperative, diplomatic Indecisive
Implementer Puts ideas into practice Disciplined, reliable, effective Inflexible
Completer Ensures optimal results Conscientious, prompt Timid, hardly delegates
Specialist Provides specialist knowledge Self-reliant, committed Gets lost in the details

So build teams that are comfortable with agreeing to disagree, after all it helps to build resilience, openness, opportunity and innovation.

If you would like a helping hand, feel free to contact me…I’m only a conversation away.

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