Productive Dissent: A Leader's Strategy to Truly Leverage Diversity
If two employees constantly agree with each other, one is redundant and you should fire them.
As a leader, encourage your team to voice differing opinions. This approach brings out fresh ideas and challenges the status quo. It also effectively leverages the diverse skills of your team members.
When your team consists of less experienced employees working remotely, it becomes tough to bring disagreements to light. People tend always to agree, maintain pleasant relations, and hold back their real thoughts.
Given your organization guarantees psychological safety and you are interested in surfacing dissent for productive purposes, how do you achieve such a result effectively?
To effectively surface productive dissent, you should focus on three actions:
Let’s see them in detail:
Dissent is shy.
Good dissent won’t join your party without a proper invitation.
Bad dissent can, eventually. But when that happens, it shows up uninvited, holding a torch in one hand and a pitchfork in the other, and it’s a completely different game.
You are looking for good dissent, not bad dissent.
Make sure you invite (good) dissent to your meetings, asking calibrated questions and actively listening to the answers you get. When you feel that someone disagrees, inquire using a safe tone and explore the boundaries of that disagreement.
Ask questions like: “I wonder if there is another way to look at this thing,” and wait to see what happens.
Challenge your team with “I know it sounds unnecessary, but I wonder if we are missing something. Does anyone feel unhappy about the solution we have?”
Be intentional in searching for dissent.
Dissent is uncomfortable.
Not just for the recipient but also for the person who dissents.
If you want people to feel at ease expressing their dissent, you must make it feel like water. (reference to DFW, wink wink…)
You, as their leader, should become their model of dissent. When meeting with stakeholders, express your dissent in ways your team will see and adopt as their standard.
Ensure you allow them to see you dissenting from the status quo so they learn how to do it properly. It allows you to adapt the expression of dissent in ways compatible with the context in which you operate.
Dissent is expensive.