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When Is It Smart To Go Against The Flow?

DOES THIS SOUND familiar? You’re with your team in a conference, the leader puts the big idea on the table, no one speaks and then one person agrees. Before you know it you’ve all agreed, only to learn later that many had unexpressed concerns. What went wrong? Blinded by an apparent consensus, many stifle their thinking, concerns, and questions despite the fact that even experts overlook key factors.

When time is short, when it seems like a slam dunk or when we assume that agreement will keep us in good graces, we succumb to passive conformity. False agreement with an easy yes shortchanges our future when facing complexity and uncertainty. As a parent, I have agreed too quickly without investigating key details or grasping the entire picture. The same is true at work. Being pre-occupied with other matters, wanting to move on to other matters and feeling unsure about what I could add, transforms inquisitiveness into acquiescence. The result will likely be mediocrity or a blunder.

flow-against-resist-change-leadGroupthink operates at all levels since we naturally enjoy being surrounded by those who think like we do. However, those who can end our sentences for us also likely share the same blind spots. When the issues are pivotal, precedent-setting and strategic, we must dig into the details to ensure that we are not making an error. So learning how to prevent from following into the trap of rapid and wrong agreement is important. When a leader needs to invoke critical thinking, there are six steps to guarantee engagement:[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″] 1. Ask for input before sharing your thoughts
2. Provide soak time to let the idea and options emerge
3. Complete a comprehensive analysis of the current context and trends
4. Create small groups to consider alternative and ramifications
5. Praise those who identify potential pitfalls
6. Establish evaluation criteria for weighing alternatives
[/message]As a team member you can leverage your contributions by learning how to disagree without being disagreeable to preserve your role as a valued team player:

1. Lead with a positive aspect of the proposed idea
2. Offer to examine alternatives and evaluate potential consequences
3. Recognize that others will see things you do not and that you see things others do not
4. Identify the best case, worst case, and likely outcomes
5. Confirm: ensure that all six mindsets have been evaluated before a final decision

Fighting the current takes greater effort than going with the flow. Everyone who has ever rowed against the current knows that it takes sustained effort to counter the tide. The benefit of the effort though is substantial. We arrive at our destination, proud of our efforts and recognized for smart decision making.

Dr. Mary Lippitthttp://www.enterprisemgt.com
Dr. Mary Lippitt is an award-winning author of "Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity.” She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1984 to provide leaders with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business climate using situational mastery. Dr. Lippitt is a thought leader and speaker on executing change, optimal leadership, and situational analysis. She currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of South Florida. Mary is also the author of Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters.

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