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Leaders Don’t Always Take Yes for an Answer
Conflict is uncomfortable for people. Sometimes, conflict is so psychologically excruciating that team members will do anything to avoid it. And avoiding it is easy. The painless way to sidestep conflict is to agree to whatever is at issue.
When team members agree too quickly, they are often using a trapdoor to avoid the potential conflict inherent in discussion and debate.
Good leaders are on the lookout for a fast Yes. They stay on guard for those who more frequently offer a Yes before any real discussion. Most importantly, they don’t always take Yes for an answer.
When leaders sense agreement is a proxy for conflict avoidance, they insist on exploring the issue anyway. By digging into why people agree and where they may have questions or concerns, leaders require them to more fully engage.
Like all people, leaders naturally like agreement. Leading others is much easier when everyone sees eye-to-eye and shares a consensus view. But decision quality and execution suffer if that consensus is actually false. Recognizing that frequent or hasty agreement may reflect one or more team members who are uncomfortable with conflict is a critical leadership skill.
Team members who avoid conflict at all costs are more common than many leaders recognize. Accepting a fast Yes from these colleagues rewards their need to dodge disagreement. Good leaders don’t accept that. Instead, they require team members to grapple with issues — even when they claim agreement is the obvious choice.
Yes is sometimes a highly unsatisfactory answer.