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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Here’s how to work through collaborative disagreements

Cultivate a culture of unity, understanding, and company success.

Here’s how to work through collaborative disagreements
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Some of the best company initiatives or creative campaigns may have started out in a room full of disagreement. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation with colleagues about how to move forward on a collaborative project, it’s best to put it on pause, humanize each contributor’s voice, and remind yourselves why you began working together in the first place. Finding your way back to the true value incentives is a best practice to align with the company’s mission and goals.

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Here are 15 ways, from Fast Company Executive Board members, to help team members put the good of their company (or project) first.

1. FOLLOW THE NORTH STAR.

Disagreements often mean that both parties feel passionate about the subject at hand, and that is a good thing! To corral that passion, go back to what your company considers its North Star: What do you do better than anyone else? Asking how this project best serves that North Star vision will inevitably keep team members aligned on a similar path that favors cohesion and adaptability. – Glo Gordon, MATRIXX Software

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2. CONSIDER THE PRIORITY AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS.

Evaluate the priority of the issue and both parties’ suggested resolutions. Perhaps there is one option that is a critical necessity and another that is more of a nice to have solution. During the evaluation process be willing to set your ego aside, listen, and acknowledge that there are always multiple solutions to a problem. – Amanda Dorenberg, COMMB

3. COMMUNICATE YOUR INTENTIONS CLEARLY.

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If you’ve cultivated a culture where all voices and opinions are welcomed and valued toward a common goal, this situation shouldn’t arise often. Similarly, if it’s understood that, ultimately, there will be one person with the final call and that those final decisions aren’t based on the personal, but rather on what’s best for the company, emotions shouldn’t play a part. Communication is everything. – Richard RB Botto, Stage 32

4. HUMANIZE EACH PERSON’S PERSPECTIVE.

We have team members argue the other person’s viewpoint. Literally, switch seats and defend the other person’s position. Amazing outcomes happen when we humanize one another’s perspectives. – Meagan Bowman, STOPWATCH

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5. FOCUS ON THE DATA TO YOUR GOALS.

Do your best to listen to your colleague’s point of view. Make every effort to truly understand the merits of their thoughts, what they are communicating, and the alignment on goals. Focus on the data and not the emotion. Try to be diplomatic and work together on the causes of the dispute and find a compromise, emphasizing how the company will benefit from a solution you craft together. – Matt Domo, FifthVantage

6. ENSURE PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY FOR ALL.

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Disagreements often arise from unmet needs. Engage in a dialogue to identify the unmet needs of your colleagues. You can do this by encouraging vulnerability and authenticity, and by using non-violent communication techniques to ensure psychological safety for everyone. Then seek to find a solution that benefits the collective team and use your corporate values as a foundation to foster team collaboration. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

7. TAKE A STEP BACK TO REFLECT.

It is always a good idea to take a step back when you are having a disagreement with a colleague. Look at the situation from their perspective. If you agree to compromise, could you reach the desired outcome? By analyzing another person’s point of view, you can find the solution that will be a win for everyone. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

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8. REVISIT YOUR WHY.

Disagreements can mark a critical time to revisit the goals you and your colleague set together at the project’s start. This allows both parties to see the task with fresh eyes, outside of high emotions, or help unearth the root of the disagreement—whether it be misalignment or miscommunication. Going back to the why helps you find common ground again and brainstorm new ways to move forward. – Bilal Aijazi, Polly

9. IDENTIFY EVERYONE’S ROLE IN THE PROJECT.

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Make sure that everyone knows what each other’s responsibilities are. This will help everyone understand how they can contribute, which will lead to less frustration for everyone involved. You should also take a step back and consider how you can help your colleague feel heard. This will help them to feel like they have a voice at work and that their perspective is being considered. – Kristin Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

10. CONSIDER THE OUTCOME, BENEFIT, OR RESULT.

I focus on the outcome, benefit, or result first. As a founder and owner, if members of the team aren’t getting along, I give them two choices: 1. Figure it out and focus on the customer or 2. If I have to get involved, neither of them will like the solution and one of them will be asked to leave. Done and done. – Mike Koenigs, The Superpower Accelerator

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11. DO WHAT’S BEST FOR THE BUSINESS.

Ultimately, you must put the good of the broader team first. This comes up in so many ways in the workplace: hiring or firing, determining the best direction to take on a project, and more. You must focus on what’s best for the business, not any one person. At the end of the day, it’s about the sustainability of the business. Unity is what will serve the full team and each person on it. – Liza Streiff, Knopman Marks Financial Training

12. ADOPT AN ‘AND,’ ‘OR’ APPROACH.

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Adopt an “and” instead of an “or” approach to disagreements. Having a discussion where you commit to generating ways you can get your needs met and do what is best for the company can generate innovative thoughts and approaches. You will be surprised at what comes to the surface with this abundance orientation. – Steve Dion, Dion Leadership

13. DO SOME TESTING.

If your business is looking to expand into new markets, testing the value of any given product or service through a virtual marketplace can be the perfect opportunity to gather data to find what markets you should be focusing on. Track the data and the results will follow! As my company expands, our ability to track data effectively has allowed my team and me to make the most of our plans of expansion. – Brandon Pena, BrandON Media Group

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14. BRING IN A THIRD (UNBIASED) PLAYER.

Business relationships are like marriage: there is give and take. But, compromise is not zero-sum. Make sure compromise is done with an eye toward a win-win on either side. The good news is that typically both parties will likely be aligned on defaulting to the good of the company. But, a third, unbiased player may be required to effectively determine what that means. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC

15. GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE.

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If disagreements are holding you back, there is likely an underlying cause. In my experience, it is often because people don’t feel heard or valued either on their team or within the larger organization. If you want to ensure the good for the company is always front and center, you need to start with your core mission and ensure it includes a commitment to truly valuing every member of your team.  – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

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