The sky is blue. No, it’s not…it’s yellow. This technology is going to skyrocket our sales! No, it’s not…it’ll never work.
Do you have a skeptic on your team? A contrarian? Someone who feels the need to argue every point, question every decision, debate every issue, challenge every change, or do/say the exact opposite both in private conversations and in larger team meetings? Not only can a single skeptic shift the energy, morale, and culture of a team, but it can be downright exhausting for the leader to engage in these battles over and over again. A big part of being an effective leader today is creating psychological safety and a trusting environment where people feel safe to share their thoughts and opinions, and are encouraged to challenge the status quo in the name of growth and innovation. A team will never get to the next level if it is filled with all compliant, “yes” people.
However, not all “push back” is created equal. You also need to take into consideration “how” you do it, “where” you do it, and “when” you do it. There is a way to respectfully elevate or advance a conversation by asking powerful questions or providing alternative perspectives, but when the timing is wrong or the communication feels aggressive (or passive-aggressive), things can quickly escalate. The train gets derailed. At ON Point we know that successful teams need a good balance of cheerleaders and champions as well as skeptics and cynics to drive results. We also know that some leaders struggle with very outspoken and persistent nay-sayers that seem to stall or sabotage the positive momentum of the team or organization.
Follow the ON Point Action Plan to learn how to manage the skeptic on your team.
7 Ways to Manage the Skeptic on Your Team
- Know Thyself – be self-aware & understand if the contrarian personality trait is a trigger for you & how you react to it
- Set Expectations – let your team know the rules of engagement & how to have a healthy debate & exchange of ideas
- Assign a Role – give your skeptic the job of “poking holes” in a new idea, project or presentation to identify potential objections & obstacles
- Open & Shut – be clear about which topics/issues/decisions are open for debate & discussion & which ones are not
- Meet Before the Meeting – try to get the buy-in & alignment before the meeting starts by explaining the “why”
- Have a Hard Conversation – in a 1:1, be super clear and direct about the behavior you see & what you want to see change
- Coach – provide the skeptic with an executive coach or be the coach that helps the person with specific development goals & strategies