Have you ever listened to children offer alternative ways to solve a problem? They each take turns sharing their thoughts until they lose interest and just move on to another topic. They disagree but never spend too much time dwelling on who wins the argument. Offering different actions to deal with a difficult teacher or assignment is what they expect from one another. They don’t personalize what is being discussed. There may be some push back but in the end they gather all the information they hear and make their best decision.
Leaders can learn a lot from the simplicity of how children approach diverse views. During team meetings or even one-on-one conversations, it is healthy to listen to each other’s perspectives even if we disagree. In fact, when we stay openminded and curious we can learn from each other and reach rich solutions. Having different opinions is a real asset for a team trying to identify the best way to tackle a challenge.
What is the power of different opinions?
1. Builds A Diverse Team
When members on a team always agree, the results may consistently fall flat. It is so important to encourage alternative ideas as well as giving those suggestions a real consideration. By developing a strategy of staying openminded there is less of a risk of “group think” and more of an opportunity for pivoting. During brainstorming sessions try telling the team to avoid statements like:
- “This will never work.”
- “That’s way too complicated and not doable.”
- “We’ve tried that before and it just doesn’t make sense.”
2. Encourages Strategic Listening
An important skill for leaders to develop in order to embrace different opinions is strategically listening. When we focus carefully on what ideas are being presented rather than what our response will be we will hear the message. A great exercise to practice strategic listening is to form pairs and give each person a chance to be a speaker and a receiver. The receiver just listens without interrupting and then asks questions once the speaker is completely finished. Then swap out the roles.
3. Opens Up A Deeper Conversation
Another great benefit of having a team conversation with many different opinions is that it leads to deeper and more meaningful discussions. Instead of merely dividing up tasks, by eliciting different opinions the goals might even change. Some ways to conduct deeper team conversations are:
- Give members advanced notice to come prepared with their ideas.
- Make sure each person has a chance to speak.
- Use a timer so no one monopolizes the discussion.
- Avoid judgement of suggestions.
4. Leads To Stronger Innovation
An exciting outcome of creating a culture of acceptance of different opinions is often increased innovation. Outlandish ideas and thoughts may turn into new ways to approach ongoing challenges. What may have seemed impossible at first could end up being the best solution. Many teams I have worked with have experienced this magical result. All they needed to do was listen, allow their minds to stay open to different ideas and be willing to try the unthinkable.
5. Helps Leaders Grow Their Craft
We grow our leadership by learning new skills and gaining knowledge in areas that were once unfamiliar. Empowering ourselves to hear different opinions and adding them to our leadership toolbox, we develop a growth mindset. Welcoming opinions different from our own is a healthy way to:
- Become more strategic.
- Develop new ways to process unfamiliar concepts.
- Train our brains to deal with new trends.
- Build a lifelong learning leadership focus.
How has the power of different opinions impacted your leadership?