Managing Differences

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Managing Differences

Often, when a team is making decisions that involve complex or highly charged issues, differences arise. It is important to remember that differences are not bad. Differences of opinion can lead you to look at an issue more thoroughly, to consider more options and arrive at a more effective decision. While differences aren’t inherently bad, problems can arise if they aren’t managed appropriately.

 1.   Identify Differences

  • Listen carefully to diagnose what’s going on.
  • Ask questions to clarify areas of agreement or disagreement.
  • Check in frequently with the team. Quiet members are often quiet for a reason.

 2.   Analyze the Differences

  • Once differences arise, list the various options on a flip chart. Listing them on a chart makes them just ideas, instead of the conflicting opinions of specific individuals.
  • Look at and analyze the ideas. Explore where similarities exist instead of just concentrating on how far apart you are.
  • Consider alternatives. Often you can merge some of the options to create a new alternative.

3.   Make the Decision

  • Avoid getting stuck in the discussion phase. Move on to a decision point.
  • In choosing an alternative it is important to ask: “Will this choice help us to achieve our team’s goal?” If a decision does not support the team improvement goal, it should probably be questioned and another alternative considered.
  • In some cases, you as the leader may have to use the command or consult decision-making style to avoid getting completely bogged down. If you must do this, it is important to explain the rationale behind your decision so that all understand why you made the choice.

4.   Implement the Decision

  • Once you’ve decided, move on! Don’t allow yourselves to blame and second-guess; make an agreement to support the decision and move on to the next activity.

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