Don’t Agree to Disagree

One of the long lost arts of work culture is the fight that NEEDS to happen within a team.

Remember the movie Fight Club, a movie about an underground club to help vent male aggression? Yes, I can see your smiles (or grins). 

Although I’m not saying we should just throw down with others at work (Yes, I see the thought being attractive to some of you.), I do wonder if we’ve created a culture that overly values egalitarian weight on perspectives and ideas. There is a big difference between respectfully allowing everyone to have input and collectively refining an idea in order to implement it well.

Tension is a good thing. In fact, it’s quite necessary for teamwork.

Many organizations and businesses that innovate well know how to disagree and still find solutions to move forward. Unfortunately, some settle for an “agree to disagree” mentality. Although this “neutral” approach may work on some conversational level, it really won’t help to move things forward.

So, how do you create a healthy work culture of tension? Here are a few thoughts that may help guide your team:

  • Invite People to Fight – Creating culture that allows for healthy tension requires us to be open about what we hope to achieve.Be upfront. Give permission for team members to engage. Allowing people to see that the goal is to move the work forward is a key.
  • Determine Fight Club Rules – It’s really about ideas and not personal attacks. People have to commit to sticking around for push back and difficult conversations.Also, identify who ultimately has the final word in a project conversation. (This assumes that the team is supportive of its leadership.)
  • Keep Fight Club Underground – If it’s about core issues for the company, agree to work through the details internally before the leaking the activity to the rest of the public. Taking it public to people who are not in the trenches of the heated conversations is probably not a good idea.
  • Celebrate the Win Together – The win is in the team moving forward with an idea. Celebrate well when a team comes together and works through its differences. The solution may not feel ideal for everyone involved, but nonetheless, it’s often better than being in a stand still.

Don’t agree to disagree if it means that you don’t move forward. Work towards creating a team culture that is deeply committed open to walking down the path of tension for the good of the company or organization.

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Charles Lee
Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.