Last week I was in Silicon Valley and I was meeting with one of my consulting clients, a CTO at a high growth startup. During our conversation, we started talking about one of his engineering managers. He was struggling to manage this fellow, since every time they were trying to make a decision (green-lighting a new feature, adjusting their strategy, etc.) this manager reacted with resistance.
It didn’t matter what the decision was; it seemed like he always had an objection.
When someone responds to a statement with a disagreement or mismatch it isnt necessarily because they want to be disagreeable. In fact, most of the time people react in this way is because they want to add value. They want to contribute to the conversation because (like all of us) they want to feel important.
Your one-step solution?
Start asking more questions.
Instead of opening the conversation with a statement that can invite disagreement, start with a question instead. It can really be that easy.
It’s ridiculously easy to give them what you need, then, by simply allowing them to say something first. Give them the opportunity to feel important and smart, by letting them answer a question you pose, rather than making a statement they can disagree with.
By rephrasing your statement into question “Given the priorities, do you think we should start with Project B instead of Project A?” allows the person to add value with their reply.
By inviting them to the conversation, you give them a chance to contribute.
If you ask them for their opinion, you are giving them credibility, which actually reduces their need to disagree and resist. You are showing that you value their input by asking for it.
By asking questions you can also pique their curiosity, and people who are more curious and interested in what you have to say are a lot less likely to meet you with resistance and disagreement. They’re more likely to want to go along for this amazing ride where they can be a leader, rather than shoot down something they’re worried might be happening without them.