How to Turn Disagreements into Great Decisions for Your Small Business

I find if flattering when someone on my team disagrees with me. It says they care more about the firm than themselves or offending me. The first thing we cover at our two-day strategic planning session is our ‘Rules of Engagement’. It’s posted on an oversized sheet and taped to the wall. It says:[wcm_restrict]

  • Speak your mind
  • Be critical of our business
  • Stay on point
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Be on time
  • Have fun!

Speak your mind. This means what it says. I want people to share what they’re thinking , not think about how they are going to position it. That said if you have an argument, you do need to think through your position and the things that support your position. We often discuss the same story when this topic comes up at meetings.

A customer hired us to teach a class only for their team. The manager stood up at the start of class and said, “We paid for Intertech to just teach us so we could have an environment where we can discuss anything.” He then paused and said, “Well folks, what questions do you have?” There was a long silence and a lot of looks between the team. One of the newer employees raised his hand and asked a question. While he was mid-way thru his question, the manager interrupted and said, “WHAT! You don’t KNOW THAT! What is wrong with you?” Needless to say that was the only question asked that week when the instructor was in the room.

Be critical of our business. When we have discussions, I usually say “We can be hard on our business or our competitors would be more than happy to do the work.” For both of the past two yearly strategic planning sessions, I was not in agreement with half of the leadership team on a key initiative. In both cases they ‘won out’ we did their approach, and guess what? They were right. One of those decisions, our push into virtual training, is responsible for 40% of our public enrollments today.

Stay on point. I can’t stand people who ramble, use their floor time as a chance to remind us of how smart they are, or someone who takes us on a wild ride of tangents just to arrive at a point that could have stated in a couple of sentences. To be honest, it’s one of the reasons that I prefer giving back to the community thru our Intertech Foundation instead of being on the board of a non-profit , where, in my experience, people love to hear themselves speak.

Respect confidentiality. It’s hard to have a ‘real’ discussion if you’re concerned about information about a decision or an event getting back to folks not in the room. In years past, we used to have several non-leadership team members involved with our two-day offsite. I found members of our team not bringing up positions because they were concerned about the discussion getting back to the group at large. Today in addition to having just the leadership team at the offsite planning, every Friday just the leadership team goes out for lunch together. While the purpose of the lunch is to have an informal meal together, I’ve noticed that when issues come up there’s no hesitation to jump right in and discuss the matter.

Disagreements can be one of the best triggers for innovation, strategy and great business decisions. I can certainly point to a lot of money we never would have made without them![/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

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About the Author

Tom Salonek is the founder and CEO of Intertech, a successful technology and training company in the upper midwest. Intertech twice has been awarded a place on the Inc 500 list of fastest growing companies in the nation and is a seven-time ‘Best Places to Work’ winner in Minnesota. Building a Winning Business 70 Takeways is Tom’s first book. He also blogs at To read Tom Salonek’s complete biography, click here.