Early on in my work as an advisor and probably a year or so into my tenure as an EOS Implementer®, I found that I really liked agreement. I wanted my teams to agree so we could solve more issues, complete Rocks sooner, and keep things running smoothly. It felt like more value was created with quantity and speed. The more we did and the faster we did it, the better. I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong: I still try to keep things moving, but I am now very fond of saying two things.

  1. We don’t need agreement, we need commitment. (See this blog post for more.)
  2. The Dissenting Voice helps us build a better product.

Now, for every rule there is an exception, so let me be clear. When I say “The Dissenting Voice,” I am not talking about the person who likes to play devil’s advocate just to mix things up, or the person who is always disagreeable or contradictory. I am talking about the value of speaking up even when the whole group isn’t seeing it your way. I am talking about making sure we are flushing the issue out fully and ensuring that everyone is heard.

I had a team a couple months back that seemed to be in full agreement about taking a new strategic direction.

As I was looking around the room, something seemed off.

“Tom, feels like there is something you need to say?” I said.

“Yeah well, . . . I guess it just feels like we are not thinking this all through, but maybe I am just missing it.”

The old me would have probably pushed past this, as he definitely indicated that he was willing to move on. Plus, I could tell the team wasn’t really open to continuing the discussion. But I have found that if we don’t give people the chance to voice their opinion, they never fully commit, even in the best case scenario. In the worst case scenario, we end up making a bad decision.

So I asked the team to listen to what Tom had to say. After he was done speaking, the whole team realized they were headed in the wrong direction. It was quite amazing, actually.

I have also found that even if The Dissenting Voice is found to be incorrect in their assessment of a situation, they end up adding real value to how we think through it and, often, the discussion that results has real value in the end. There is always value created when you hear the diverse voices in the room.

As I reflected on Tom and his team, I realized this happens all the time. It happens with Rocks, when we are creating clarity around what done looks like, or with the way we IDS™ and To Dos that are being set to solve the issue.

As leaders, we usually run the meetings. Make sure you are “feeling” the room and watching for the one person who doesn’t seem to be connecting to what is being said. That Dissenting Voice just may make the difference and change the discussion for the better.