Socrates insisted on our right to think for ourselves. Too often, he warned, humans sleepwalk through life, simply going along with the crowd.
It’s only human to avoid disagreement and conflict. However, inviting objection into our work can be a game changer, now more than ever. While we are biologically drawn to people who think like us and agree with our decisions, I question the value of surrounding ourselves with like-minded peers that creates ‘group think’.
Bringing diversity of thought into an organisation is the first step to creating a company culture where people are comfortable speaking up when they have a different idea, opinions or see a flaw in an existing process or system. What is required is being open to seeking out opposing viewpoints and the flaws that they may highlight in our own arguments.
The biggest catastrophes rarely come from information that is secret or hidden. In circumstances that go wrong, we often already have been told the information we needed to stop the problem. Yet we remained wilfully blind to it all because we didn’t want to create conflict.
Our common fear of conflict also impacts speaking up in the workplace when something is wrong. In a recent survey of European and American executives, 85% of them acknowledged that they had concerns at work that they were afraid to raise. So, creating an open network of communication that welcomes opposing views makes for a functional and efficient work environment.
In being a Compassionate Leader and daring to disagree, ask yourself these three critical questions:
- Do I foster an environment that encourages or discourages discussion?
- Will I respond well to disagreement, and if not, what can I do to change that relationship?
- What makes me uncomfortable with disagreement, specifically?