Maintaining Group Motivation While Handling ‘Decision Disagreement’

When you run/manage a business there will be moments when what you have to do may not concur with what the majority of the team think – that comes with the turf.

Making a decision and standing behind those decisions is one of the most challenging things you’ll have to do as a leader. Doing so effectively requires thoughtful preparation. Here are six approaches to use when you have to communicate a decision that disagrees with others…

Knowing your decision will likely trigger strong emotions in your team, you don’t want to walk into the conversation unprepared and therefore risk making things worse. You need to bring a measured approach to conveying the decision, free of your own personal feelings which may include a little anger. Acknowledge your feelings rather than showing them. Saying something like, “I know how disappointing this feels,” even though you might feel tempted to say something more like, “I can’t believe these people are suggesting this’’.

Understand why people have come to their conclusions first. What criteria were used? What alternatives were considered? What broader factors were in play that perhaps are outside your visibility?

Knowledge is power in these situations. Having a broader knowledge on why opinions differ from your own will give you insights and background that will help put things in context for your group.

A reasonable fact base can play an important role in helping teams through tough conversations, but don’t expect facts to abate emotions. You’ll need empathy and compassion for that. If you try to use data alone to address strong feelings, it will feel dismissive and invalidating. Deal with the emotional landscape first.

Your team will expect you to respect their views and understand their position even when you disagree and must force your decision through. It’s critical that you resist the temptation to go there and ‘take their side’ this is very different to showing empathy. Joining them in their resentment will only keep them stuck in it, making it harder for you to help them get past it with your decision.

Remember that there’s a power differential between you and your team, which means there should also be a perspective differential. You can acknowledge your disappointment and empathise compassionately with theirs, but you need to take the high road if you want your team to come out the other side of the decision ready to perform and contribute. Listen to their concerns, even going around the table so each person has an opportunity to express what specifically pains them about the decision. Listening with care helps validate emotions without supporting the fears that lie behind them.

This is a delicate line to walk. Using the data you gathered prior to the meeting, share the logic path behind your decision as best as you understand it, along with the alternatives you now understand were considered. Your aim should be to turn the conversation toward making the best of a less-than-ideal situation rather than merely minimising the team’s annoyance towards the management decision.

Don’t defend yourself because people aiming their anger and disrespect at you isn’t going to help the team move forward.”

Get people to see the world as others might see it – in this instance, you from your leadership position. By doing this you can invite your team to take into account factors they wouldn’t naturally consider. What challenges are you facing that they may not see? What alternatives had to be explored that might have been worse?

Handling disappointment is a skill most people don’t come naturally equipped with. It’s all too easy to blame and become a victim. But getting people to look through your eyes at the situation can cause positive reflection and feel less disappointed.

After a few days, get back with the team to see how they’re doing. Remember that everyone deals with bad news differently, and some take longer than others to move on. If you’re seeing really poor behaviour (disrespectful remarks, trying to keep the team irritated, underperformance, absenteeism, etc.), it’s important that you balance understanding with clear expectations. Remember that some behaviours can’t be tolerated no matter how disappointed people feel.

It’s never easy to convey bad news to those you lead. But these are the moments where your leadership matters the most. You may not be able to or want to change your decision, but how you lead your team through it could change their ability to navigate disappointment with the correct level of respect and resilience, which they may well thank you for later.

Got some challenges in your business and serious about fixing them? Contact us here for a free / no obligation chat.

The Tinderbox Team

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