Monday, December 8, 2014

Opposing Views Are Allowed to Co-Exist

I've been writing about a facilitation workshop I recently attended--a workshop to learn how to be a better facilitator and how to teach others to do the same. It was organized and led by Jeffrey Cufaude of Idea Architects. I got a lot of takeaways that are relevant to the work I and my staff do with our association's Board, committees, and task forces. Here's the last one.

When facilitating a meeting of members, remember that opposing views are allowed to co-exist in the room.

I'll admit it. When I first heard this advice, my immediate reaction was that it should be added to the list of ground rules for our staff meetings. We're a passionate group of people, and things can sometimes get sidetracked if we forget that not every discussion is an argument that needs to be won.

But the lesson also clearly applies to facilitating a meeting of members. When arguments erupt around a board table or in the committee meeting room, it's important to take a step back and reflect on whether the subject of the debate is actually material to the matter at hand.

It often isn't, in my experience. And there aren't many things worse for group productivity than chasing a bunch of stray rabbits down their holes.

But even when the disagreement is over something material, it remains important to take a second step back and reflect on whether it is a matter of perception.

Like the guys in the picture accompanying this post, I often see people arguing over their different perceptions of the same object. These disputes cannot be resolved, because there is no one right answer. Both parties are, in fact, right, and allowing an argument to continue in such a situation is worse than chasing rabbits down holes. In these situations, you're just chasing rabbits, because there are no holes.

More importantly, when arguments over perception are allowed to predominate, you risk rejecting the innovation and creativity benefits that come from allowing alternate perspectives to tackle the same problem. Fighting to determine who's right misses the main point. Solutions, after all, doesn't come when someone wins an argument. Solutions come when people who view a problem differently agree on a path forward.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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