How Those Who Challenge You Make You More Successful

tug_war.jpgAre you feeling uninspired and stuck at work? Perhaps it’s the people around you.

It’s nice to have colleagues who support us and are of like mind – they boost our confidence and allow us to relax. We develop a network of people with whom we like to work because we know their styles and they know ours.

Healthy conflict, differing perspectives – It’s comfortable and expedient and it works.

Unfortunately, that level of comfort can stall the very learning and innovation that can expand our careers and our companies, says Kevin Daum, author of ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.

We need healthy conflict and differing perspectives to dig out the truth from group-think. If everyone in the group has a similar point of view, our work will suffer from confirmation bias, rarely breaking new ground and causing unnecessary failure.

In this era of constant disruptive change, we all need to get better at disrupting ourselves, failing forward and seeing what no one else does. As a leader, it can be challenging to create an environment in which people will freely dissent and argue.

5 Ways to Engage and Expand Your View

Here are five tips for engaging people who’ll expand your perspective and increase your success:

  1. Identify and seek out contrarians. Actively seeking conflict isn’t an easy thing – most of us avoid arguments or heightened discourse. Start with a self-assessment of where you’ve become stale in your thinking or approach. Encourage your network to help identify your blind spots; then find people who see things differently, and that you trust well enough to speak the full truth to you. Seek their counsel on a regular basis.
  2. Listen carefully to those with whom you disagree. We often create habits that limit the way we source ideas and information. Seek out colleagues and groups that are outside your normal way of thinking. Find people with diverse perspectives who make you uncomfortable, and invite them into your conversation. Honor their views with a new sense of curiosity. You may find they change your own views.
  3. Engage in friendly debate. Passionate, energetic debate requires strength and assertion to be effective. Set ground rules so everyone understands responsibilities, boundaries, and feels safe. If people are worried about negative repercussions, they’ll hold back or disengage completely. The objective of this debate is not to win but to get to the truth that will allow you to move faster, farther, and better. When that happens, everyone wins.
  4. Be considerate and check in regularly. Fierce debate can get emotionally challenging, particularly when strong personalities are involved. Make sure you check in with your adversarial colleagues to make sure they’re not carrying the emotion of the battle beyond the battlefield. Break the tension with smiles and humor to reinforce this is friendly discourse and all are working toward communal success.
  5. Express gratitude and share rewards, always. Sincerely appreciate the insights offered. This will keep good emotions going and great insights flowing. Make certain everyone involved in the debate is amply rewarded when goals are reached. Let your sparring partners know how much you appreciate them for being fierce and vulnerable. The more appreciated you make them feel, the more they’ll be willing to engage with you again next time.


Michelle M. Smith

Michelle M. Smith

Michelle M. Smith is Vice President, Marketing, of O.C. Tanner. A highly accomplished international speaker, author, and consultant on performance improvement, Michelle is a respected authority on leadership, internal branding and employee engagement. She’s published and presented more than 1,000 articles and lectures and is a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the UK and the US.

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