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5 Steps to Turn Your Adversaries into Allies

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Oct. 19, 2014

"Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll disagree with you."
John Wooden Twitter icon

I don't like disagreement.

I'd rather we all get along harmoniously.

And barring that, I'd prefer you just agree with me.

I sailed through the first quarter of my career avoiding serious disagreements. I was likable and smart, and my workplace had a strong, well aligned culture. The rare disagreements would work out pretty smoothly.

Then Mitch Weckop transferred in.

Mitch was the new Operations Manager at the Plant where I was the HR Manager. Mitch didn't approach things the same way we did. Or should I say, as I did. He was bold, decisive, and opinionated. He challenged the norm. A lot of people agreed with him.

I didn't.

If you named a topic, Mitch and I probably disagreed.

It was a rocky start.

Mitch was my adversary, and it frustrated me that he couldn't see things my way. I started to take our disagreements personally. Then someone challenged me to step back and see that Mitch and I had a lot in common.

That person was right.

Mitch and I shared core values, and we both wanted what was best for the business. And soon I realized Mitch was my ally, not my adversary.

Want to turn your adversary into your ally? Try these 5 steps.

  1. Find commonalities.

    On the surface Mitch and I did not share a lot, but below the surface we shared what mattered: core values. This gave us the base to form our decisions. If you want your adversary to be your ally, dig deep to find common ground.

  2. Focus on the outcome.

    I often got stuck on HOW Mitch wanted do things, but not WHAT he wanted to accomplish. So we learned to start our discussions by agreeing on what success looked like. This made it easier to compromise knowing that our end goal was the same.

  3. Challenge the process, not the person.

    Mitch and I agreed that we would challenge each other's processes, but not each other's integrity. This forced us to talk about HOW we wanted to make decisions which then improved the quality of our conversations.

  4. Disagree going in. Align coming out.

    Mitch and I didn't stop disagreeing; disagreement made us better decision makers. We were forced to take a broader perspective and a deeper dive into issues, and we approached problems from angles we weren't comfortable with.

    But when we walked out of our meetings, we were always aligned and we agreed to support each other. We didn't trash talk, roll our eyes, or do our own thing. We respected our decision and each other.

  5. Embrace the value of disagreement.

    Disagreements can lead to better decisions and results. Instead of the complacency of "yes" men, you have the tension of opposing viewpoints.

    Over time our plant became very well known for our breakthrough results and a tightly aligned leadership team. Visitors to our plant would ask us if the secret to our leadership team was that we agreed so much. Mitch and I would look at each other and laugh. The secret to agreement was disagreement.

Are you battling it out with an adversary?

Maybe it's time to step back and evaluate your differences.

Different does not have to mean adversarial. Twitter icon

Find your common ground, focus on the big picure and harness your disagreements. You may learn, your adversary is a much better ally.

Mitch Weckop is the CEO of Skyline Technologies. He is a brilliant leader, strategist and communicator; I am privileged to call him my mentor and role model.

Struggling with barriers? Change your perspective. Take a look at these posts:

Excellence Don't Just be Better; Raise the Bar

Dangers of Distraction The Dangers of Distractions

Get Noticed Fear Factor: When Fear Makes Us (and Others!) Better

Check out the Leadership Essentials page for more leadership insights

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"I have you now"Photo/I have you now by Kenny Louie, on Flickr

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