Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 19;   May 8, 2002: If You Weren't So Wrong So Often, I'd Agree with You

If You Weren't So Wrong So Often, I'd Agree with You

by

Diversity of perspectives is one of the great strengths of teams. Ideas contend and through contending they improve each other. In this process, criticism of ideas sometimes gets personal. How can we critique ideas safely, without hurting each other, while keeping focused on the work?
Pain in the heart

Photo by Magnus Lindvall

Walking out of the building after another hard day, Ellen felt ill in her heart. These meetings were so painful — it seemed that everyone just wanted to shoot at each other. The team did produce good work, but the pain of getting there was sometimes too much.

Today it was Will shooting at Betty. Her booth design was flawed, and Will did offer some real improvements, but only after he said, "This layout makes me want to walk right by." Betty sat stone-faced, and Will was clueless. It wasn't a guy thing — Ellen had seen it too many times in too many different gender combinations. Maybe it was this team, or this company. Anyway, she resolved that this would be her last trade show planning effort. Ever.

Why do we hurt each other when we work together? And when we do try to address hurt feelings, why do we hear "I didn't mean to offend you" so often?

Most of us grew up with command-and-control models of work. We learned that task is far more important than relationship. But in the team environment, both task and relationship count. Accomplishing the task at the expense of the relationships is a failure.

Since a task orientation prevents us from noticing harm to relationships, we tend to reward people who contribute to task achievements, and we tend to ignore those who contribute to relationship achievements.

Here are some tips for making your team a success in both task and relationship.

Both task and relationship
count. Accomplishing the
task at the expense of
the relationships
is a failure.
Focus on ideas, not people
Focus your comments on the idea, rather than its proposer. Combine the idea with another idea to get the benefits of both.
Assume the best of people
Few of us hurt others intentionally, except perhaps in anger. Most of the time, when we think that an insult is intentional, it isn't.
When you hurt, feel — then deal
When you hurt, let yourself feel it. If you have the strength, and the time is right, let people know what's happening for you. Unless they know that you're in pain, they probably won't change what they're doing.
Recognize contributions as contributions
We're usually fooling ourselves when we attribute a specific contribution to a single person, because most contributions have many authors. We can't always know for sure who contributed what.
Recognize relationship building and preservation
To succeed in both task and relationship a team must work at building and preserving relationships. Recognize contributions that keep personal relationships healthy.

When you introduce these ideas to others, some might feel criticized, and some might feel hurt. Perhaps, reading this, you yourself feel some regrets. Be easy on them and be easy on yourself. Focus not on the past, but on making "right now" as good as you can make it. Go to top Top  Next issue: I Think, Therefore I Laugh  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!

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Related articles

More articles on Emotions at Work:

Elevator doors at the Spalding Building, Portland, Oregon (2012)Demanding Forgiveness
Working together under stress, we do sometimes hurt each other. Delivering apologies is a skill critical to repairing those hurts and maintaining our relationships.
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Do you consider yourself a body linguist? Can you tell what people are thinking just by looking at gestures and postures? Think again. Body language is much more complex and ambiguous than many would have us believe.
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At the end of the day, your skill at finding humor inside the dull and ordinary can make the difference between going home exhausted and going home in a strait jacket. Adopting a twisted view of the goings-on might just help keep you untwisted.
Two redwoods in the Stout Memorial Grove of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in CaliforniaNot Really Part of the Team: I
Some team members hang back. They show little initiative and have little social contact with other team members. How does this come about?
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Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good teammates.

See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Raquel Welch (left) and Gilda Radner (right) from a @Cite{Saturday Night Live rehearsal, April 24, 1976Coming December 20: Conceptual Mondegreens
When we disagree about abstractions, such as a problem solution, or a competitor's strategy, the cause can often be misunderstanding the abstraction. That misunderstanding can be a conceptual mondegreen. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
An engineer attending a meeting with 14 other engineersAnd on December 27: On Assigning Responsibility for Creating Trouble
When we assign responsibility for troubles that bedevil us, we often make mistakes. We can be misled by language, stereotypes, and the assumptions we make about others. Available here and by RSS on December 27.

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