In a perfect world everyone likes my ideas and follows along happily. Admit it – haven’t you thought that in the course of your leadership? We have the blissful expectation that people will agree with us and come along for the ride. But somehow division creeps in and before long we’re on opposite ends of a tug of war rope. Fortunately there are proven steps toward harmonious relationships and full-orbed agreement with our teams.
Several years into my ministry leadership, a staffer said to me, “I don’t feel safe with you, Lisa. I try to express my opinion, but it seems you have your mind made up and you’re going to do what you want regardless. Actually, I don’t think you really listen to me when I talk.” Her words stung. My perception of my openness to others’ opinions and my ability to listen were far different from her experience. But I took her feedback seriously and gradually learned to respond to conflict in a more productive way. I’m still learning.
When faced with disagreement from team members, we can fall into a tug of war rut, or we can take the high road.
Tug of War Posture
- Dig your heels in. We’re either convinced our way is truly best, or we have an unhealthy need to be right. Either way, we state our case stronger, raise our voice louder, and try not to concede an inch.
- Let go of the rope and walk away. When conflict erupts, we choose not to engage in its messiness. We lay low, hope it gradually goes away, and try to proceed as though it’s a non-issue.
- Assign motives. We get inside the other person’s head and try to understand – apart from conversation with them – why they’re acting the way they are. We reason that if we could figure them out, we could sway them to our side.
- Take it personally. We think things like, “There must be something about me she doesn’t like,” or “My personality just rubs him the wrong way.” Instead of working through the conflict with the other person, we harbor thoughts of self-condemnation.
- Pull rank. As senior leader, we decide our way is best and we insist on having it. We carte blanche announce to the team, “This is the way it will be,” and we naively think all is well.
Any of us who’ve employed these tactics know they’ve gotten us nowhere, and with no one following us. There’s a higher road that’s harder to climb, but it leads to a much better outcome.
Take the High Road toward Agreement
- Get off-site together. Whether in someone’s home or at a retreat center, being away from your typical surroundings is invaluable. As you relax over a meal and worship and pray together, you’ll appreciate each other in a fresh way. Honoring one another relationally enables more honest conversation to follow.
- Listen to comprehend. It’s tempting to build your own case while listening to someone else’s. Instead, take a step back and really listen to their point of view. Give them time to unpack the various components, and reflect back to them your understanding of what they’ve said.
- Keep your heart open. When someone has a dissenting opinion and they express it strongly, our natural response can be irritation or anger. If you get triggered, try not to let your emotions fuel your words. Stay focused on content and be loving toward the person.
- Recognize other giftings. Disagreements are oftentimes divergent viewpoints based on spiritual gifting (Romans 12:3-8). Someone who’s administrative will see things differently from someone who’s mercy-oriented. Acknowledge and respect the various perspectives.
- Release perspectives to the Lord. Pray together, ask God for wisdom, express your thoughts about the issue, and release them to the Lord. Be open to Him changing your mind during prayer and discussion.
- Wait for God to reveal His will. God desires oneness (John 17). Allow plenty of time for Him to speak through prayer, His Word, and your team’s giftings and perspectives. Oftentimes, the various perspectives congeal as God brings forth His multifaceted wisdom.
When disagreements arise within your organization, take heart and take the high road. God wants to bring your team into closer relationships with one another and a fuller understanding of His will. God can turn disagreements into an opportunity to deepen relationships and discern a more complete version of His will.
How has God helped you resolve disagreements within your teams? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.