I’ve had a bunch of conversations over the past few months around a particular issue: interpreting the actions of others on a team. We can make things worse by a lack of respect for differing ideas. So here’s a guiding principle you should adopt:
Whenever you find someone doing something you think he or she shouldn’t: before reacting or interacting on the topic figure out why that very thing that you find so obviously wrong was reasonable in the mind of the other. People rarely, if ever, do something they personally in the moment think isn’t reasonable. You may be able to instruct in a different moment why it wasn’t all that reasonable, but you’ll find that it’s easier to have that teachable moment if you’re able to start from the point of “I understand why you thought that doing X in this situation was a good idea….”
People are complicated. And very different from one another. All too often we tend to think that when someone has a different approach to a topic it’s either:
- They haven’t thought it through very well (or weren’t smart enough to), or
- They have a different idea of what’s right and wrong then we do
In most cases, at least in a well-aligned organization or family, neither of those are true.
Quite frequently I’ve found myself judging the actions or thoughts of another based on how I would have handled a situation. And it usually makes relationships awful going forward until those conceptions are put out on the table and dealt with. And most of the time I’ve jumped to one of the conclusions above I’ve been wrong. Certainly there are times when someone hasn’t thought through an issue well enough. In leadership, though, my experience has been that even when that’s true, the other person thought they’d considered all the issues when they had missed some important things.
It’s also sometimes true that the other person has a different goal in mind or a different viewpoint of what’s right in a given situation. But it’s also true that sometimes two people, with the same goal and the same grid of what’s right and what’s not, come to two completely different conclusions about how to handle a particular problem.
So how do you deal with that? Read the indented section above again.
And now read this:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…
“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Good teamwork, when humility is mixed in, means that we try to understand first, considering different viewpoints to be assumed as valid, then proven otherwise. It makes a huge difference when trying to convince someone they’re wrong if they believe they’ve been heard out and actually listened to. It makes an even bigger difference if you can start your correction with “I can see how you got to what you think about this. Correct me if I heard you wrong, but you saw A and B, and then concluded C from that, and then D followed because of E, right.” And assuming you’ve heard and understood, you can then say, “here’s where you went wrong. E isn’t actually the case, and your conclusion of C, is better understood if you see it as F. If you start from there, you’ll see how you get to G and H being true rather than C and D.”
It’s called respect. Humility breeds respect. And respect of the perspectives of others, even when they’re coming to wrong conclusions, makes for better teamwork.
There’s something else. I’ve found, over the years, that even poor ideas, when voiced, can provide improvement on better ideas.
Proverbs 24:6b says “in the abundance of counselors there is victory.” To have an abundance of counselors, the team must, together, respect one another’s viewpoints enough to listen and learn from one another. Listening, learning, gaining perspective. This is part of leadership and true teamwork. And it comes through humility, which leads to respect.
Change how you react to disagreement, and you’ll find your team gelling better together in short order. When your teammates see you respect them, they’ll have an easier time respecting you.