Leadership Challenge: Finding Common Ground

Never has the American ethos been more conflicted. More voices are transmitting strongly-held one-sided views via all forms of media. It seems the artful practice of finding common ground among differing ideas is some kind of dream of a more courteous past.

However, leaders in particular, and colleagues in general don’t have the luxury to dig in or to stop listening in a tough conflict, particularly when effectiveness is at stake.

Most of us don’t like having a conflict or disagreement with a colleague. While debate, skepticism, and taking the “devil’s advocate” position may be signs of a healthy dialogue, this challenge relates to situations where there may be a conflict or differing views that seem–if not irreconcilable–beyond your current capacity to resolve.

If you find yourself in this situation this Fall, I challenge you to ask yourself as many of the following questions as you can:

1. How do the facts (rather than the feelings or delivery) of his/her view truly differ from my own?

2. What does this issue, or the overall situation, look like from his/her viewpoint that has them convinced they’re right and/or I’m wrong?

3. What’s the elephant in the room? What’s not being said or addressed here that’s contributing to our lack of progress on this issue?

4. What, if any, sacred cows do I need to let go of in the interest of finding common ground?

5. Beyond this immediate issue, what’s the bigger picture here, that if we can address that, will help with this particular issue?

6. What, if anything, would need to happen for me to change my point of view?

7. If we find common ground, what will my ego need to let go of?

8. What am I therefore willing to do differently right now to find common ground?


David Peck is a Partner and US Lead for Executive Coaching at Heidrick Consulting. He’s been published extensively and is the author of Beyond Effective. Twitter: @coachdavidpeck

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