Every day we are faced with situations where our point of view can be challenged. Being able to present your ideas, and work with others with opposing views is a critical leadership skill. It takes confidence to challenge others, and the intelligence to balance this with showing respect for, and listening to others.
When challenging others constructively, it is important to:
Respect Others: First of all, you have to be respectful of the person you are speaking with. Show that you value different viewpoints, and their right to challenge your perspectives.
Acknowledge Prior Knowledge or Experience: When you are being challenged, you have to acknowledge that the person challenging your position may have more information, and indeed may know more about the issue than you do. So listen, especially when they are saying: “Let me tell you why that won’t work here.” Wrapped up in that statement is valuable information and further context to the problem. They are giving you an opportunity to understand their constraints or environment.
Ask Questions: Seek first to understand, then seek to be heard. As you explore an issue, learn to ask questions such as, “Have you thought about this… or have you considered that…? Put some suggestions on the table, in a considered way.
A colleague of mine had a good technique to introduce concepts or ideas when thinking was constrained. He would ask the question, ‘What If…’. This type of questioning broadens the conversation and opens up dialogue to focus on solutions.
If you practice asking questions, over time you will learn to enquire in a very subtle, powerful way that gets others to think about the situation differently.
Paraphrase Messages: Paraphrasing helps to position the idea in a new way. You can replay the message to the person, using their words and some of your thoughts. This can be useful to introduce a slight twist on their idea.
Blending these techniques leads to better outcomes, and an approach that builds relationships over time.
Key Insights: Constructively challenging others requires being respectful of others, while being confident in your views. You need to balance listening skills with questioning, and paraphrasing. If done well, challenging discussions can help you foster a better understanding of the situation and stronger relationships.
Chris Williams – Financial Services Consulting, Senior Client Account Executive – Managing Director
Chris Williams is a leader with over 20+ years of experience in core banking transformation, merger integration and divestiture programmes in Financial Services consulting. He is the Senior Client Account Lead for one of the firm’s Diamond client in the US, and consults with numerous banks globally.