Insights

5 ways to get people to challenge you to succeed

By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP
corporate success

Most of us don’t like having our strongly-held beliefs challenged. And yet, to create a successful career in an era of constant disruptive change, we need someone who will tell us what no one else will.

It’s nice to have colleagues who support us and are of like mind. We have a network of people with whom we like to work because we know their styles and they know ours. It’s comfortable and expedient and it works.

Unfortunately, that level of comfort can stall the very learning and innovation that can expand our careers and our companies, says Kevin Daum, author of ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.

We need healthy conflict and differing perspectives to avoid group-think. If everyone in the group has a similar point of view, our work will suffer from confirmation bias, rarely breaking new ground and causing unnecessary failure.

As a leader, it can be challenging to create an environment in which people will freely dissent, but here are five tips for engaging people who’ll expand your perspective and increase your success.

  1.  Actively seeking conflict isn’t easy – most of us avoid arguments or heightened discourse. Start with a self-assessment of where you’ve become stale in your thinking or approach. Encourage your network to help identify your blind spots; then find people who see things differently, and that you trust well enough to speak the full truth to you. Seek their counsel on a regular basis.
  2. We create habits that limit the way we source ideas and information. Seek out colleagues and groups outside your normal way of thinking. Find people with diverse perspectives who make you uncomfortable, and invite them into your conversation. Honor their views with a new sense of curiosity. You may find they change your own views.
  3. Passionate, energetic debate requires strength and assertion to be effective. Set ground rules so everyone understands boundaries and feels safe. If people are worried about negative repercussions, they’ll hold back or disengage completely. The objective of this debate is not to win, but to get to the truth that will allow you to move faster, farther, and better. When that happens, everyone wins.
  1. Fierce debate can get emotionally challenging, particularly when strong personalities are involved. Make sure you check in with your adversarial colleagues to make sure they’re not carrying the emotion of the battle beyond the battlefield. Break the tension with smiles and humor to reinforce this is friendly discourse and all are working toward communal success.
  1. Sincerely appreciate the insights offered. This will keep good emotions going and great insights flowing. Make certain everyone involved in the debate is amply rewarded when goals are reached. Let your sparring partners know how much you appreciate them for being fierce and vulnerable. The more appreciated you make them feel, the more they’ll be willing to engage next time.

Now, more than ever, we all need someone who will challenge our thinking and speak truths we may not wish to hear.

Categories: Editor Picks, Insights

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By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP

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