This is such a fascinating topic: how we engage with one another to clarify things and then to reach decisions.

Sometimes we...

...don't even get to debate!  We don't want to risk upsetting the team or causing individual offence, so we leave things unsaid for the sake of an artificial sense of harmony.

This achieves nothing and causes more damage long-term if it results in us making decisions that don't work in everyone's interest.

Debate is usually...

...our default mode, where we invite everyone to contribute their views and then argue out the merits or otherwise of each idea.  

Whilst it's healthy for everyone to have their say, this approach can often lead to the feeling among some that they've lost the argument.  

And then you've got people with a vested interest in proving that their way was right and, "You should have listened to me."  They have no buy-in to the outcome and may even be just itching for an opportunity to say, "I told you so."

Dialogue is where... can get to those win-win outcomes that are so desirable.

Here, we not only listen to everyone's ideas, but we actively probe to find out more about them and get a deeper understanding of the other person's thinking and to see if we can find ways of changing our own thinking so we can all get what we want.



Notice which of these levels your team's discussions are predominantly held in:

  • Artificial harmony
  • Debate
  • Dialogue


Do you need to dig down deeper?

Try this simple...

...experiment.  Write down the following words on a piece of flip-chart paper and display it prominently in all team meetings: 

  • Why? 
  • What? 
  • Who? 
  • When? 
  • How?


Make a point of using these questions to seek a genuine and full understanding of what's being discussed.

And, by the way, the question marks are important!  They open our minds in ways that mere words can never do.