Lennon and McCartney. Nobel laureates and their support teams. The 1990s Chicago Bulls.  Whether they’re song writers, scientists or sports organizations, the best teams of all time tend to share many attributes. Yes, generational talent, an extreme work ethic and a shared sense of purpose are usually at the forefront of these power houses. But, so is a healthy tension to push each other beyond our comfort zones, fueled by diverse perspectives and a desire to do great work. When teams embrace these moments of “productive disagreement” in a healthy way, the results can be transformative. 

On this point, I came across a few articles and presentations within the last month that can provide a helpful framework on how to engage in productive conversations with each other and with clients, which, in turn, can lead to great, “transformative” outcomes. One of the articles is from the Harvard Business Review entitled, “Managing a Polarized Workforce.” While its focus is on helping teams navigate office conversations about political and social issues, the article also provides a useful playbook for healthy dialogue with colleagues that can be applied to any project or engagement. 

That playbook includes practical techniques on how to be more open-minded to multiple perspectives, to pressure test your ideas by intentionally seeking out information from people with opposing viewpoints, and to frame your position in a way that’s positive and not confrontational. There’s also a helpful “Receptivity Quiz” you can take to assess how amenable you currently are to considering another point of view. 

What ultimately makes this approach work is acknowledging that you and your team are trying to achieve the same goal, and that there are often different paths to that destination. Try out some of the techniques mentioned in the article in your next creative brainstorm, messaging exercise, PR pitch writing or discussion over a website user interface strategy. 

Another interesting piece I came across this past month is the G.R.O.W. model from entrepreneur and corporate culture guru, Piyush Patel.  G.R.O.W. stands for Goals, Reality, Options and Will. It’s a mature and healthy way to address a situation that may be falling short of expectations. For this model to work effectively, the key – Patel states – is getting buy-in and a commitment on the next actions to help course-correct in an effort to achieve your team’s targeted goal.

Start the conversation by stating the goal (G) of the project or engagement. Then align on the current reality (R). In most cases the reality is a very measurable and objective number. In some cases, however, it may not be as clear – such as a project where the outcome is based on quality. In those instances, the opinions that matter most may be those of the client or a team member not actively engaged in this initiative. You may not necessarily agree with reality, but you can be on the same page where something needs to be done. Next, is assessing options (O). What can be done? This includes focusing on the task or work at hand, and not the person, reasons or excuses for the current reality. Finally, who will (W) enact what’s required to achieve the new outcome. Have that person or team commit to doing it on the spot, with clear commitments to a specific action by a specific date. 

Where there is passion and talent, there are bound to be different approaches for overcoming a challenge and producing great work. Embrace those differences, and learn from each other and our clients. It’s in that process that we continue to grow our personal and team ability to produce great outcomes. I hope you find these approaches helpful.