As a leader, dissent from your team can feel scary or threatening.  

We often associate disagreement with disloyalty or disrespect – but the fact of the matter is that disagreement can be incredibly helpful. 

When we disagree or debate respectfully, we think critically about the status quo. We push ourselves to explore new ideas, and most importantly, we give our teams an opportunity to voice their opinions. 

Many of the best ideas in business come from disagreement. Bill gates hated the idea of the Xbox when someone first pitched it to him! 20 years later, it’s a household name and one of the best-selling game consoles of all time. If his team had bowed to his wishes without disagreement, the company would have missed billions of dollars in revenue. 

As leaders, we should not only permit but encourage our teams to disagree with others – including ourselves! Nobody is perfect, and great ideas can come from any level of the organization. Here are three key reasons why great leaders embrace respectful disagreement. 

1) It Helps Us Come Up with New Ideas 

As leaders, we often know our company better than anyone. We understand where the revenue is coming from, what our biggest expenses are, what our customers want, and so forth. However, great knowledge of the company can also be a roadblock for new ideas and creativity. 

People at different levels of the company see things from a totally different vantage point. As a result, they may quickly identify solutions, opportunities, or challenges that we are blind to. By allowing others to voice their perspectives, we gain new insights on our organization, products, and business plans. 

2) Diversity of Thought Leads to Better Results 

We’ve all had thoughts and plans that seemed better on paper. By seeking out different opinions on our plans, we can refine our ideas, anticipate challenges, fix mistakes, add improvements and more. In short, with the help of others, we can turn good ideas into great ideas. 

If we want to truly innovate, produce creative ad campaigns, and release great products, diversity of thought is a must. If our employees are afraid to challenge us or offer new ideas, our work will never reach its full potential. 

3) It Makes Employees Feel Empowered and Respected 

I once had a boss who would say “no” to my suggestions before I could even finish a sentence. And you know what? It felt terrible! 

As leaders, we have the opportunity to bring out the best or the worst in our teams. Basic courtesy starts with asking others what they think. If we never take the time to listen or ask for someone’s opinion, we make it clear that we don’t respect them.  

Conversely, if we routinely ask for other’s two cents, we show that we respect them as equals and value their input. When employees feel respected and like their voice is heard, they‘re inspired to put in the elbow grease to deliver results. It’s just common sense – people want to work for someone who respects and cares about them. 

Are You Fostering New Ideas, or Smothering Them? 

If leaders want to bring out the best in our teams, our business, and ourselves, we have to embrace respectful disagreement. You don’t have to accept every idea your team throws your way. In fact, you’ll probably reject a lot of them!  

However, giving teams the opportunity to voice dissent – and giving their thoughts due consideration – goes a long way. It not only makes them our teams feel respected but fosters innovation and breeds creativity.  

Next time you meet with your team, invite them to be open about their opinions. You might be surprised at how much this simple act can transform your team! 

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