3 Steps for Resolving Differences

Bob Schultek Author of
The Gauntlet

Securing a team’s commitment to a direction, decision or action, typically requires the resolving of differences within the team to identify and agree on the best way forward. These 3 steps can help:

1. Employ empathy. As the discussion begins, listen empathetically to the differing perspectives, asking questions to clarify or confirm. If the dialogue stalls, use expressions of consideration and tolerance to remove any sense of threat so the sharing of ideas may continue. A typical comment would be: “Can you help me understand why your position is important to you and what you need from us?” Resist the temptation to short-circuit the dialogue by prematurely expressing your preferred outcome; doing so compromises the collaborative effort of sharing opinions that enables team commitment to the best approach.

2. Discover the “why.” Following the initial sharing of perspectives, probe the related motivation cited for each viewpoint to discover the true “why” that’s driving that position. After restating the initial opinion and motivation that was shared, continue asking “why” until this true motivation emerges; often the real motivation is uncertainty or fear. This discovery helps shape agreement on the current reality, and on the commonalities shared by the other stakeholder perspectives, while clarifying and acknowledging the differences that still exist.

3. Pursue the shared outcome. Revisit the key points under discussion and the unresolveddifferences. Then, ask the stakeholders to envision and describe a shared outcome for the issue, and what is needed to achieve this vision. Address any differences in the described outcomes and propose a shared outcome agreed by all. Next, ask each stakeholder to suggest actions necessary to move from their position towards the shared outcome. More commonalities will emerge, enabling each person to sequentially resolve the few final obstacles to resolution.

This three-step process supports the respectful, collaborative and efficient exploration of commonalities, barriers and potential solutions necessary to efficiently secure resolution that drives commitment. And it’s a learning experience that can help a team resolve future differences among themselves.

How do you resolve differences to achieve team commitment?

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