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“I Can Support That” - The Difference Between Agreement and Support

3 min read

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Published September 21, 2015

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Picture of Chris Cosper

Chris Cosper
Head of Consulting

The best teams are diverse in thinking and will always bring a variety of ideas and solutions. They are able to put all of these ideas on the table, move them around, combine pieces from different ideas, discuss, debate and ultimately select aPeople Communication - Rhythm Systems blog course of action that the entire team can get behind.  

But so often, I see teams get stuck defending their individual ideas, trying to prove their points and explain their positions, ultimately spending way too much time moving from debate to action. The truth is, smart teams can usually create more than one good solution. And even though you might still think the nuances of your idea make it the best idea, deep down you know that the other solution will work just as well.

2 Ways Teams Get Tripped Up

Healthy Debate versus Time-Wasting Stubbornness

  • The first is hanging on and debating the issue longer than necessary. There’s a fine line between healthy debate and time-wasting stubbornness. Some people just really enjoy the debate, even when it’s no longer productive. If you find yourself stuck in the debate, check in to see how serious the consequences of choosing one idea over the other are. Clarify the idea that seems to have the most support from the most team members, identify the few who are keeping the debate going and ask this question: “Will you lose sleep tonight if we move forward with option A?” If the answer is NO, then people will usually recognize that they’ve become more attached to the debate than the solution. If the answer is YES, then you’re not finished with the debate. There are still serious concerns that need to be addressed, and you need to keep working.

Secretly Resenting the Decision

  • The second is having a few holdouts who finally just give in, but secretly resent the decision. This is dangerous because folks who just get tired and give up may actually work behind the scenes to prove themselves right in the end. You may not be able to tell it’s happening in the moment, but later you’ll hear them say something like “I knew that wouldn’t work”. Ugh.

Even if you don’t have 100% AGREEMENT on an idea, you must make sure you have 100% SUPPORT before moving forward. And it’s not enough to just say you support something, you have to actually demonstrate true support after the meeting. The best way to ensure this is to clarify what support looks like with your team.

Three Key Behaviors You Should All Agree on in the Spirit of Support

  1. I will speak positively about this decision.
  2. I will do everything in my power to make sure we are successful in the execution of this decision.
  3. I will not say “They decided…..”.

Support looks a lot like ownership, doesn’t it? That’s the key, really. When a team decides to move forward with something, it becomes the team’s idea, and no one outside the room should be able to tell who’s idea it was to begin with. Share this definition of what support looks like with your team before you begin the next debate, then see if it helps you move forward to a healthy conclusion sooner.

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