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Collaboration: It’s Not About Being Right or Wrong

Collaboration Is Not About Being Right or Wrong

Some people exhibit such a need to be right that they can’t stand evidence to the contrary. Do you work with someone like that?

These are the folks who work overtime to prove others wrong and disparage anyone who has a different point of view. This type of communication stance makes team communication difficult because it sends most discussions rapidly into debating “right” versus “wrong.”

People with The Leadership Gift™, however, listen completely and respectfully to speakers representing different views.

Why? Because they know that “right” and “wrong” is always relative. They don’t fear different points of view: they know different points of view offer new opportunities to build and expand, rather than to threaten each other with extinction.

Consider this. What’s right in your _______ (fill in the blank: family, department, culture, classroom, market, organization, religion, etc.) may well be wrong in another one.

Judgements of right and wrong always emanate from a particular point of view that is based on values, beliefs and attitudes, which are always relative.

Take for example a relationship between marketing and engineering (as bodies of knowledge, or as divisions in a company, take your pick). Marketing and engineering come from and operate within very different points of view which, sometimes, have great difficulty working together.

But marketing would have nothing to sell without engineering, and engineering would have no niche for their product without marketing. In fact, each is only part of — and add value to — the bigger picture and requires the other part for completion.

To adopt The Leadership Gift theory of relativity, consider all of your knowledge, ideas, and opinions as functions of your unique perspective or point of view.

Consider each other person’s knowledge, ideas and opinions as functions of their points of view. All are valid and true. Some are more applicable than others in certain circumstances. But all are equally valid and true in their own realms.

The fun part of life and of practicing The Leadership Gift is taking every opportunity you can to integrate your point of view with as many others as you can.

To do this, though, you have to be willing to hear, and validate, all other points of view. And not just when you agree with them — all the time.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip:

Remove “right” and “wrong” from your vocabulary. Replace the words with “works” and “doesn’t work” — as in “that works for me” and “that doesn’t work from my point of view.”

Try it for three days and see if you can feel the increase in your team power.

Want more practice?

If you want to learn a lot about yourself, pay attention to your own point of view, especially when different from others. It will help you discern your beliefs and values.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or family) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.

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4 Responses to Collaboration: It’s Not About Being Right or Wrong

  1. Pingback: Blair Ingle | Collaboration: It’s Not About Being Right or Wrong by Christopher Avery

  2. Christopher, I’ve been meaning to come back to this particular post because it hits home on one of my talks. I just spent some time with an online meet up group with Agile Bill Krebs and we discussed a few real world observations of agile environments without coaches and expertise.

    I spent a lot of time on initial visibility of ‘true or false’ and not ‘right or wrong’. This communication opens the door for two things in new environments. 1. You acknowledge that others are smart enough to see the writing on the wall and 2. It provides an opportunity to overcome some assumptions and/or bias about your environment. The responses I get are usually oohs and aahs as people haven’t’ seemed to take this approach. Too often we are stuck in “I know this” or “Why can’t you see what I see” and that’s a recipe for pushback or even alienation from the folks with the authority. Often time these individuals are the Sr. Management that are charged with the success of the environment as much as the portfolio, program, or projects.

    When I saw this title, I knew you were hitting another long ball and I wanted to say once again, thanks for all you contribute in our thought spaces. I’ll be sending people to this particular post for a look at ‘self’ once again.

    Always a pleasure friend.

    • christopher says:

      Hi Scotty, I bask in your “long ball” acknowledgement. Thanks.

      Tell us more about ‘true or false.’ I think I get it and I want to be sure. I’ll give you a recent application from my team and you can tell me if it is what you are talking about:

      D: I’d make that red button gray instead so it doesn’t distract the eye from the content of the banner.
      G: You might as well eliminate the button if you are going to make it gray.
      Me: Are your comments based on personal preference or learning about what works in this circumstance, or something else?
      D: Mine is based on personal opinion. I find the red is distracting.
      G: Mine is based on research and experimentation. I’m pretty sure people won’t see a gray button in that place, so the banner would not serve it’s purpose. And, we could test it.
      Me: Thank you. I value your opinions and research. How can we experiment in a way that honors D’s aesthetics and G’s research? What would be a good way forward together?
      D: Now that we examine this, I realize my real concern is that we are all over the place with our banner buttons: different colors, words, shapes, placements. I’d like us to develop a more consistent look.
      G: Agreed

      And that’s what we did.

      What I was trying to do here (as Scrum Master, Product Owner, and employer by the way, to be transparent) was have them examine the source of their opinions, honor those sources in themselves and each other — both the truths and fallacies — and use that respect to converge on a path forward. Is this what you mean Scotty when you talk about ‘true and false?’

  3. You are spot on when the team is discussing a process and working together. In changing environments, as you know, there are power distances between the organizational leadership and the project or team leadership. In your case, leading from the back as you did allowed the team to be honest about their perspectives and where they came from; I’d call that step 2.

    In my example, earlier in the process, let’s assume there is “the way we we’ve always done it” and the organization struggles in process improvement and quality is suffering. One individual, we’ll call her Sally, had concerns about their approach to many new methods and wanted to bring to light the issues her team was seeing. Without a collaborative environment, nor the authority for these types of discussions, Sally found herself attempting to get the attention of leadership by exposing something ‘wrong’. When we met to discuss the pushback she was facing, the focus was removed from the ‘wrong’ process and we discussed the real impediment which was the method of engagement of the Sr. Staff on process improvement issues. This led to the analogy, “You can’t tell someone their baby is ugly.”

    Once we discussed making “the way we’ve always done it” visible and allowing everyone to see the process, she was able to say, everyone, here’s what is ‘true’ does anyone see an issue with this flow, process, etc… From this new approach to comes Step 2, which would be to allow all perspectives to emerge and evolve to the discussion you had above with D and G, ultimately leading to a healthy conflict discussion regarding the ‘wrong’ process.

    Experiencing a win in this way would foster a repeat performance of the Step 2 conversation as a means as the organizational communication and establish new boundaries for process improvement discussion. This would be done without confusing the issue with formal vocabulary and pre-conceived notions about buzz words or formal process initiation.

    What I see here is iterative ‘true or false’ vs. constant ‘right or wrong’. The difference being once again, the maturity level of the organization and their communication. In either company, true or false wins every time.

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