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Finding Common Ground – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: The common ground of an argument.

In a perfect world, we could accept each other for who we are and how we see things without conflict or misunderstandings. How close can we get to that? 

We could start with having a dialogue about how to practice that with our staff or teams. Let’s look at five common ground assumptions.

  • Common Ground assumption number 1 – We all see the world differently.
  • Common Ground assumption number 2 – We can agree to disagree, professionally.
  • Common Ground assumption number 3 – When we disagree, we need to listen to the other person with the intent to understand their opinion or viewpoint. No interruptions, no eye rolling or sighs, let them speak. If we feel an emotional response building up, we will take 10 – 15 seconds to manage that emotion before it becomes something else.
  • Common Ground assumption number 4 – There is no expectation for us to change our viewpoints, beliefs, and opinion. 
  • Common Ground assumption number 5 – We pledge to remain curious about the people we come in contact with and ideas, opinions, or viewpoints outside of our own. This is a learning opportunity, not a personal attack.

When we find ourselves facing a personal reaction, we agree to use these clarifying questions. These questions and an inquisitive tone help to open the dialogue door to share ideas.

  • What don’t I know? You can ask this one inside your head to help you remain curious.
  • Can you share more about that with me?
  • What does that look like from your perspective?
  • What does that mean to you?
  • In what way do you see that differently?
  • In what ways could you apply that idea?

Try to stay away from using questions that start with how. When emotions are involved the word how and the tone tends to evoke a defensive position.

  • How do you see that working? (In what ways would that work?)
  • How does that look from your perspective? (What does that look like from your perspective?)
  • How would you apply that idea? (In what ways could you apply that idea?)
  • How do you see things differently? (In what way do you see that differently?)

Also, try to stop using the word but. When you use it can nullify and contradict the previous statement.

  • I understand where you are coming from, but here is how I see it.
  • You make a great point, but here is what I found that works as well.
  • I agree with you, but when I try it I don’t get the same response.

Instead, use the word and. The word and can make a statement more inclusive or open the door to shared experiences with different outcomes. 

  • I understand where you are coming from and here is how I see it.
  • You make a great point and here is what I found that works well for me.
  • I totally agree with you and here is what happens when I try it, am I missing something?

As the leader, you model the way so start practicing not using the words but and how. There is no way you can erase the usage of these words, the question is can you reduce how often you use them? 

Sit down with your team and talk with them about creating a space where you can engage in dialogue when talking about topics that can cause conflict. Use the five common ground assumptions as a starting point. As a team create your own assumptions that your staff or team can practice and live by. 

There is no silver bullet, there’s not one way that works in every situation. Start somewhere and don’t do it without your team or staff, if you do, they will not feel included in the decision. When you include the people you work with, you help to build trust, and your staff members hold each other accountable if they come up with the answers, rules, or assumptions. Model the behavior you want to see your team or staff practice every day.

Does this really work?

I experienced firsthand a team of vice presidents working with their CEO to discuss how to maintain a positive culture within the organization. They created the space to have radical candor, discussed the challenges and concerns, and came up with an approach that they all agreed on. The group identified three behaviors (behaviors that were specific, observable, and repeatable) that they could do as a team to maintain a positive culture. Independent of that decision they also agreed to hold each other accountable to practice those behaviors with the entire organization. 

As a leader, finding common ground is healthy. Just because a staff member does something differently than you and gets the same or similar outcome, doesn’t mean their approach is wrong, just different. When you try to make everyone do things the same way as you, that’s micromanaging or being a dictator. Now, you may have a more effective approach to reach an outcome so be a coach leader. Ask them why they are approaching the project a certain way, give them the room to explain, and then share your idea as another way to approach the project. Work together to create new and better ways to work. 

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