Can Disagreements Build Up Your Team?

John Krautzel
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Arguments among your team members and colleagues may not seem very helpful at some points during a project. However, business leaders and managers can use disagreements to turn things around and make real, impactful change within an organization. Discover a tried-and-true method to get a team on the same page for a project but also three ways to gently handle any disagreements that appear in the future.

Team-building expert Audrey Epstein has explored what it means when your team can use disagreements to an advantage. The groups she's worked with usually iron out their differences before going forward with a plan. But with one group, she witnessed members simply going along with the team leader because they didn't want to have any upsets or arguments. Even though many members of the team agreed to an action plan, there were three who had serious concerns.

Epstein's normal team-building exercises have three phases. The first step is to explore an issue from all sides to weigh pros and cons of a plan or course of action. Next, teams brainstorm ideas to reach a consensus and bridge any gaps between one side and the other. Finally, teams move forward with a workable action plan that everyone agrees with in principle. The process remains calm, even if team members voice concerns and disagreements from the first step, and team members have a right to speak up and make suggestions to alter the project later if things go differently than what was planned.

The feedback from the team that still had disagreements noted that members were eager to demonstrate how they aligned themselves with the project goals despite their concerns about the ROI and de-emphasizing other core priorities within the company.

Three Ways to Get Answers

1. Ask Questions

After your team goes through the three initial steps, it's important to keep an open mind and create a space that allows for disagreements. Foster an atmosphere where you ask questions and get real answers with relevant feedback. Seek out alternative ideas, contrary opinions and data, ways a project can fail, why people are withholding support, and what else your team needs to discuss.

2. Eschew Your Own Bias

Try not to influence your team based on your own bias if you're the team leader. You may have already decided in your head what course of action to take but reserve your opinion for last. Plus, saving your thoughts for the end of the discussion gives your colleagues' ideas a chance to sink in before speaking.

3. Check in Regularly

After the team decides what plan to follow, check in with each person regularly to gauge feelings about the project. Everyone may have relied on data and metrics to start, but then gut feelings, intuition and inner voices might come to bear later on as team members go about their daily tasks. Aim for weekly check-ins to see how everyone feels.

Your team may have disagreements, but divergent views are not necessarily bad. Sometimes, a different point of view can save a project from ruin, elevate a plan to the next level, or reveal insights that no one else has considered. How have you turned a disagreement into an advantage?

Photo courtesy of Giorgio Montersino at


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  • Jenna Lopez
    Jenna Lopez

    Great perspective! This is such a fresh take on the issue of disagreements. Respect for your colleagues should never be lost no matter the conflict. Oftentimes, issues can be solved by listening to the other party and acknowledging that their concerns are valid, and then working from there. Be willing to compromise until you can reach a plan that is approved by everyone in the team.

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