We often think of disagreement as negative, which it can sometimes be. On the other hand, having some good discussions because we cannot agree can be quite useful, since the issues raised can be important ones that have not been considered. If we’re not talking about “issues,” how can we discuss “opportunities?” Plus, research shows that an optimal ratio of positive supportive comments to criticisms is 5.6:1 for motivating performance; some negative comments are useful to help balance overall context of performance improvement. I can do another blog on that if you want to see more…
Let me use, for example, my concept of Spectator Sheep as it relates to discussions and communications:
You know them because they are seen “standing around not contributing and voicing their opinions.” Naaaaaaaaa. Baaaaaaaaaa. We hear that kind of complaining all the time…
Well, in a way, good that you do. Because it simply represents people who are dissatisfied with the way things are now, which is one of the pre-requisites for change. If people were okay, they would be unlikely to do anything differently. Motivation comes from the desire to close the gap between the way things are and the way things could be. (See Leon Festinger’s easily accessed work on Cognitive Dissonance in Wikipedia or elsewhere. Here is my blog post on stress as a motivator.)
When we deliver our team building games, like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we very often see the “forming, storming, norming and performing” stages happen quite quickly. Teams will reach a consensus and shared goal within the first 20 minutes, along with doing the risk management assessment, the provision planning, and developing their overall strategy for success.
But the reality is that teams NEED dissension to reach an optimum decision. If they are all in agreement at the start, or if one person dominates and simply drives their personal plan, the planning will be less good and the teamwork does not form and ownership of results will not occur. We must have some disagreement to optimize the decision quality. And we also need to reach a consensus before moving forward…
So, our Spectator Sheep might take on a slightly more beneficial spin:
Actually, I see Spectator Sheep more like this and have a very positive working experience base of engaging these people in performance improvement initiatives:
Spectator Sheep can be motivated tigers if we get them going the right way. Ideas that are against the norm are often very good ways to generate alternative perspectives and thus considered alternatives in our choices. And, in a number of organizational leadership development and thinking effectiveness programs, the concept of assigning one person to the role of Devil’s Advocate is often suggested. Those people are supposed to challenge ideas and take alternative, non-consensual viewpoints with the simple goal of improving the overall decisions.
You can find some ideas in a 3-minute video about coaching for improved workplace performance and about involving and engaging the middle of the organizational curve into moving forward on my YouTube page. The link for this particular video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohrhcYpDCk but we also share a variety of other short pieces on different aspects of overall performance improvement.
Me, I like to refocus Spectator Sheep toward our mission, visions and goals in order to re-energize them to help me get to my goals. Their ideas are useful and they can be realigned, if only we involve and better motivate them.
You can find more ideas about motivating the average employees in another blog post of mine on Workplace Motivation by clicking on this image:
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
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