If you’re too eager to reach consensus in a meeting, you might limit debate and dismiss divergent views. But if you’re pursuing the best possible decision, clashes are inevitable. To guide groups through a decision-making process:
? Get everyone involved. Ask quiet individuals to start discussions. Give less vocal personalities ample opportunities to chime in. Otherwise, the loudest people will dominate.
? Prize candor over politeness. Praise participants who express their honest opinion, even if they say what you (or others) don’t want to hear. This contributes to a culture of constructive engagement. Beware of meetings in which everyone gets along so well that there is little disagreement. Too much politeness can undermine the exchange of ideas that leads to breakthroughs.
? Play the contrarian. When groups rally around an idea or action plan, challenge them to adopt a fresh perspective. Ask, “What happens if we’re wrong?” Or play devil’s advocate and introduce alternative theories or discussion points.
? Separate facts from assumptions. Groups may act on assumptions without realizing it. Help participants distinguish between verifiable facts and assumptions.
— Adapted from The Director’s Manual, Peter Browning and William Sparks, John Wiley & Sons.