How well managed debate can improve your workplace

When we think about team building exercises, we equate that with creating trust, respect and unity in the group. However, there is one key factor that many people don’t consider: encouraging debate. According to recent research, the ability to argue well and manage conflict effectively is more accurate in determining long-term business success.

Research shows, “The strongest teams believe that conflict is beneficial and even essential. They believe that conflict requires conviction, and that conviction must be grounded in something worth at least listening to.”

Debate results in learning and the creation of fresh ideas, which means a well-rounded work environment—the well-kept secret of the most successful businesses.

Nonetheless, promoting debate doesn’t always go over well. People are uncomfortable with confrontation, and workplace conflict is viewed as a negative sign. But however awkward it may feel at first, establishing a culture of well-managed debate in the workplace can be the best way to lead to productive change.

Here are four tips to cultivate healthy debate and take your business to the next level:

  1. Detach your personal opinions about a coworker from the idea at hand.

Regardless of how you personally feel about a team member, listen to their message objectively. Conflict often arises from the tension in a relationship rather than the point they are trying to make. When a debate starts to resemble a personal attack, the team leader must redirect back to the issue.

  1. Discourage heated debate.

There is a major difference between heated debate and animated debate.

“Heated [debate] is argumentative and discouraged,” according to co-founder and CTO of Hubspot Dharmesh Shah. “Animated is when you get passionate because you care about the issue, and is definitely welcomed.”

There is nothing wrong with getting excited about the discussion, but it’s important to also stay levelheaded. In other words, remain open-minded for alternative suggestions and points of view.

  1. Make sure opinions are backed by supporting evidence

A productive debate can only occur when ideas and opinions are supported by data. This ensures everyone stays objective and focuses on the issue at hand. Otherwise, the conversation will go off in different directions and nothing will get accomplished.

  1. Create an environment where team members feel respected and valued

Let’s face it: everyone performs at their best when they feel appreciated. The most successful teams are the ones where everyone is invited to share their viewpoint. More opinions means more innovation and company growth.

Dr. Volker Schulte, group director of manufacturing and technology at Aggreko, says that “for innovation to happen, senior teams need to create a culture where those who are closest to the customer can share, challenge, and feel heard,” He explains that it is the team leader’s responsibility to “create empowering cultures of micro-innovation in conjunction with clear, top-down plans to best set up organizations for success.”

Rose Caiola
Inspired. Rewired.

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