Monday, December 29, 2008

Clarifying Positions

There can be something very appealing about a person who tells you, "I disagree with your position," especially when such direct communication is contrasted with the flaws of subterranean opposition.

The subterranean types aren't always traitorous or conspiratorial. They may sincerely regard their behavior as part of the due diligence of a thorough professional. Their technique, however, is to provide an outward appearance of neutrality or mild support while raising one objection after another. This approach would be fine if they were genuinely neutral, but often they are not.

In order to avoid an erosion of trust, it helps if team members identify their biases early on when examining a proposed course of action. No one gets to "pass." The categories are:
  1. Strongly opposed under any circumstances.
  2. Strongly opposed but willing to change.
  3. Leaning toward opposition but willing to change.
  4. Genuinely neutral.
  5. Leaning toward favoring but willing to change.
  6. Strongly in favor but willing to change.
  7. Strongly in favor under any circumstances.

Naturally, this only works if the individuals are honest. Some may resist announcing a position until more information has been received. If they are genuinely neutral, they have that category as an option. Others may feel that any early labeling will inhibit the free exchange of ideas. In my experience, the free exchange is expedited by a clear picture of where people stand.

This approach builds on the open opposition, if provided in an honest and supportive manner, is far better than actual or suspected opposition that is hidden.

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