So much of life’s and business’s struggles and day-to-day challenges are wrapped up in people trying to get agreement from other people – from their children, their partners, parents, banks, repairmen and so on.
In business, leader-executives want agreement from their teams – to do their jobs well, to work hard, to follow company policies, to carry out plans and projects, to do the right things. Leaders and executives must obtain agreement from their teams, or nothing of value gets done in the company.
Communication is the only tool anyone has to achieve genuine agreement.
Too often in life, people try to “sell” their point of view and opinion to someone else too soon in the communication process. Too often, people try to convince others about something before they enable those others to understand everything first. Trying to convince too early fails to generate agreement, motivation or willingness.
In business, an executive could simply order someone to do something. However, issuing orders by itself doesn’t always lead to the desired end results being achieved or created. The main reason people don’t do what they are asked to do or what is expected of them is not due to their intentional refusal to do so. The most frequent reason is because people don’t know or understand all or part of what the executive wants them to do.
This is a breakdown in communication one way or another. Ideal communication was not achieved.
There is a very effective process a leader can use to get total understanding and agreement from each of his or her people.
Process to Obtain Agreement From Your Team Members
The first thing to know is this general principle: Getting agreement is simply the process of exchanging goals, points of views, ideas, and observations back and forth, back and forth – unemotionally and professionally – until all parties reach an agreement.
Extremely important: This process works well with 70-80% of the population. This process doesn’t work on the remaining 20-30%. Therefore, make sure you have only the right people in your business.
As one example, let’s say you are an executive in your business. There is a situation, problem or change the business is facing, and you want to come up with a plan to resolve this or to carry out the change. What are the steps to getting agreement and support from your team?
- First, define for yourself the exact situation or problem. Get all the information you can to determine the exact, actual situation or problem. Work out a statement of the exact situation or problem in writing, and edit this until it is clear, complete, accurate and understandable. Take time with this step as this is your “diagnosis” step. An accurate diagnosis results in the right and effective treatment. An incorrect diagnosis leads to a worsened health condition.
- Have as many team members as possible help with this first step. Ask each person for their observations, reports, and ideas. Get as much data and information from your people as possible. There are two benefits to this: (1) by including your people in this step, they are more part of the process, they feel more valued and therefore are more willing to help and contribute, and (2) you will be more certain to get all the information needed to gain a complete and accurate picture of the situation or change, which you must have to develop an effective plan that will produce desired results.
- Once you have the situation or problem written out clearly and understandably, work out for yourself what your objectives are with respect to the situation or problem. What exactly do you want to occur? What is the exact end result you want to achieve? What are your objectives? If your objectives aren’t clear, your team members will be unclear as well.
- Then present the current situation or problem gathered in Steps 1-3 to the person or team. Cover this completely so your people really know and understand what is happening now. You have already included them in Step 2, but they still might not have the total picture. If they don’t understand the current situation, they won’t fully understand or agree to, the plans or tasks you are assigning them. Don’t hold back information; people will respond better if they have the entire story. There might be times to keep certain things confidential. But, as much as possible, present to your people the entire situation, condition, problem, and plans to handle them.
- Allow the team or person to ask questions. Continue this until everyone understands the situation, problem or change completely.
- Present your point of view in a calm, smooth manner without trying to convince the other person or people. Don’t convince. Present the situation factually and completely, and allow the team to process the information and gain a complete understanding of the situation.
- Ask the team or person questions of your own—more than “Do you have any questions?” Ask questions that make them think, that make them consider the situation or problem from all angles, which make them come up with their own ideas.
- Invite the person or team to contribute their thoughts, ideas, and possible solutions. Maintain a safe space for any and all ideas with no criticisms, insults, or competitive attitudes allowed. The idea is to create a “mastermind” and safe environment in which everyone is encouraged to express their thoughts and ideas.
- Exchange points of view back and forth with the other person or team. You communicate and they listen with the idea of really listening and understanding. They communicate and you listen with the intention of really listening and understanding. Back and forth until everyone contributes and an agreement is reached.
- Communicate directly and forthrightly with understanding and patience. Always be yourself when communicating. Always be real. It’s OK to disagree, and it’s OK for the other person(s) to disagree with you—up to a point. You are still in charge, and ultimately your team must follow your directions. But before that point is reached, allow your people to ask questions and present their own ideas and solutions – but professionally, unemotionally and without any negativity or criticism. (You should have rules of professionalism and good behavior in place for how your people communicate to you and to each other, and how they present their ideas and observations, without negativity or criticism.) The main reason for Steps 2 and 5-9 is that most often, the leader-executive will gain new insights, new information, and good ideas from his or her people. The ultimate decision is yours as the leader; until you make the ultimate decision, allow your team to help solve the problem, allow them to contribute their own knowledge, ideas, and expertise to the discussion.
- If during such a communication exchange, you learn new information, or you find out the situation or problem was different from what you thought, or your team has come up with better ideas and solutions, then the best thing to do is take these ideas and new information, go back to your office and rework the statement of the situation and/or plan. A great leader is a perfect combination of “flexible yet decisive.” This is a fine line and is part of the art of management. A leader should not be so rigid and stubborn that he or she doesn’t keep himself or herself open to new information and fresh ideas that could be beneficial and productive. On the other hand, a leader cannot be wishy-washy, indecisive and changing with the wind. There is a balance between being flexible, open and decisive.
- Once you, as the executive, have decided on a course of action, you then present this to your team. Present them the complete situation or problem again as appropriate – this could be the second or even third presentation. Then present the plan to resolve the situation or problem, and in particular the end results and goals you are expecting to achieve. Make sure each individual understands the end results and goals they are to accomplish and produce.
- During this entire process, observe your people closely. Look for signs of disagreement, resentment, objections, or outright mutiny. The worst sign is not a person openly expressing any disagreements or objections. In fact, it is desirable that people tell you what they are truly thinking. At least you know. You won’t be fooled. It is the unexpressed and hidden resentments, disagreements, objections that are the most dangerous. Fortunately, every person alive is both a transmitter and receiver of emotions and attitudes. All you have to do is closely observe your people and keep your antennae up and keep yourself open to receiving the subtle yet observable signals that people give out. You can train yourself to detect these signals, even the most subtle sign of any negative attitude, emotion, or disagreement. You want all disagreements and objections in the open and on the table for all to see, as these can be handled and resolved easily. It is the hidden, behind-your-back disagreements, resentments and objections that cause the most damage.