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Dish out debate, not answers

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

To help your team make a big decision, resist the urge to give your opinion or promote one side over the other. It’s ­better to play the role of debate ­moder­ator.

By making it clear that you’re eager to hear all perspectives—and that you’re genuinely open to learning from everyone—you model the kind of curiosity that you want others to emulate. Withhold your biases and you’ll set the stage for employees to exhibit more open-mindedness.

To facilitate a worthwhile debate, start by framing the issue. Define the question that you’d like your group to discuss, and provide supporting data and other background information to familiarize participants with the topic.

Ignite a lively debate by welcoming insights from all sides. Create a safe environment for a fairly contested battle of ideas. Assure employees that they can speak freely without fear of judgment.

At the same time, demand rigor in their thought process. Encourage people to cite evidence to substantiate their claims, rather than fling assertions at each other.

As you listen, don’t nod or smile to signal your approval. You don’t want employees to take their cues from your behavior; instead, challenge what you hear by posing questions, raising concerns or presenting alternative views. Play devil’s advocate to keep participants on their toes.

When team members start repeating themselves, draw the debate to a close. Direct the group toward a sound, logical decision based on the most cogent arguments that you’ve heard.

— Adapted from Multipliers, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, Harper Business.

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