How disagreement can positively challenge teams.

By focussing on achieving consensus, we might be missing the opportunity to stimulate different ideas.
The courage to challenge consensus thinking.

Accepting dissenting views from your own team members requires a rare combination of humility, self-confidence and the ability to keep one’s ego in check. Being challenged by an external team (whom you are effectively paying to provide you a service) can be even more difficult to swallow.

Yet there are real benefits to remaining open to dissenting views.

The power of disagreement

The tendency most of us have is to avoid conflict. To minimise disagreements and to drive for consensus. But as pointed out in an article from Harvard Business Review, this habitual way of working can limit the team’s performance. “We don’t often step back to assess if the team dynamics that we consider “good” are getting in the way of generating breakthrough ideas and results“.

“How you interact as a team impacts how you think about your business. If your team’s interactions are becoming predictable or languishing in a flat line, it might be time to stir things up”

Sabina Nawaz – Harvard Business Review

To challenge these natural tendencies requires a degree of courage, particularly for an agency to challenge a paying client.

The courage to challenge

At Aprais, we define challenging behaviour as using one’s initiative to challenge the status quo and not allowing conflict to go unaddressed. It encompasses a willingness to initiate and adopt change, to think out-of-the-box and to push back when things aren’t right.

Analysis of our extensive database of more than 24,000 client-agency team evaluations revealed that the challenge behaviour has become significantly more demanded of both agencies and their marketer clients over the 10-year period to 2021. Download our report on the Challenge behaviour here.

Breaking habits

Sabina Nawaz, author of the HBR article says “Raising the temperature in your team meetings means creating enough productive tension through diversity and dissension to stimulate different ideas”. She advises four key strategies to break stale habits:

Be grounded in purpose.

Be explicit about the reason you are raising the heat, so others don’t accuse you of taking potshots at the team or questioning their wor

Describe behavioral data.

Call out patterns with specific data points, such as, “In the last 30 minutes, whenever someone from the production group has spoken, they have been interrupted by an engineer,”

Invite multiple interpretations.

Ask team members to share their own thoughts about why certain team dynamics are at play.

Disrupt defaults.

Challenge the team’s default behaviours and various possible reasons for them, so that everyone will have a clearer view of how they are being perceived. This knowledge can help to break familiar patterns and character dominance in meetings.

How to be more challenging?

Challenge is one of the seven key behaviours vital for building stronger business teams. Our report includes 5 suggestions for agencies and clients to improve their performance around this behaviour.