How to Get Agreement When Egos and Agendas Collide

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Here is something that you’ve probably hit more often than you want to.

You know the story…..when you’re in a room or on a conference call with lots of different people who have different egos and agendas.

There are lots of politics flying around and lots of emotion and you’re thinking to yourself:

“How on earth are we going to make sense of this chaotic situation, because if someone doesn’t take charge and if someone doesn’t grab hold of this, then we’re going to waste a lot of time.

We’re going to probably spend months and months and months moaning about the same old problems and we’re going to get nowhere”.

In fact, this probably happens to you all the time.

There are probably loads of problems that you already have that you’re on yet another conference call about, and you know it’s barely going to move forward.

So, here’s a trick.

This is a beautiful one, especially if you’ve got a boss that maybe thinks they know more than they do and they don’t allow other people to join in or you’ve got those awkward colleagues from different departments who don’t quite talk to each other because they’ve got very different views.

Here’s a way to get it all together very quickly.

This strategy takes maybe about an hour, but it’ll save you weeks and weeks and maybe even months of your time.

And, by the way, you’ll be a superstar because everyone will wonder, ‘How on earth do you do this?”

So, here’s how you do it.

 

1. State The Problem

The first thing is to get the people you need either on a call or, ideally, around a table and you ask a really dumb question, “What is it that everyone thinks the problem is?”

You’d be amazed because quite often there isn’t agreement on what the problem is.

Normally when that happens, the best thing you can do is say, let’s state the problem as “we’re all upset”.

Or something that’s very generic that no one can say “hang on a second, I’m not upset” or “I don’t care.”

State it generically, because if you state something generically like “we’re upset”, then everyone can nod and say, “do you know what, I can agree with that”, and everyone else can agree with that.

You’ve just brought a group together.

Very simple trick, well it’s not even a trick, it’s just about being human.

State The Problem

 

2. Capture The Problem

The second thing you need to do is figure out what’s going on.

I call this stage, capture.

I use a little tool called an affinity diagram.

It’s a way of gathering from everyone what’s actually going on.

It’s important to do it in a way that’s semi-safe and that people feel that they do want to contribute and get off their chests what’s actually worrying them or upsetting them.

Normally what I do is I use stick-its or post-it notes. It’s really easy. If you’ve done brainstorming before, very like brainstorming.

Actually, there’s a trick to this that I’ll show you to actually make your own brainstorming even better.

 

What’s Upsetting You?

What I usually do is say, “we’re all upset” and then I’ll ask, “okay, what’s upsetting you?”

A very simple question, “what’s upsetting you?”

And it allows everyone to think about why they are upset.

It could be, “actually I am upset because my customers are shouting at me down the phone”, “I’m upset because we’re spending too much money on this”, “I’m upset because my boss doesn’t listen to me”, “I’m upset because….”

You just gather it all and the first time you do this, it starts off normally with three or four stick-it notes.

Now here’s the trick.

As you start sticking them up, some people say for brainstorming sessions: stick up and don’t query.

Well, that’s frankly wrong.

 

What Do You Mean By That?

This is really important.

What you want to do is when someone sticks up a stick-it note, you need to allow everyone else around the table to say, “what do you mean by that?”

I’ll give you an example of how this interaction usually works:

“I’m upset because it’s costing me too much money”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well actually it’s from my budget and it’s costing me $10,000”.

“Why are you spending that?”

“Well, because no one else is going to.”

And it allows the conversation to develop a bit so that everyone starts understanding what each of these problems are.

So, it allows me to say what’s bothering me, but it allows everyone else to ask questions that allow them to connect with what’s bothering me.

It’s really important that everyone gets to understand everyone else’s perspectives because in a typical brainstorming session, everyone puts up the sticky note but you don’t ask and understand why exactly someone put that up and it leads to group-think.

This is terrible, because if you don’t understand what that sticky note actually means and you haven’t had the opportunity to ask about it, then there’s no way you can consider and understand what’s actually behind that note.

So really important, allow people to ask questions as you stick the problem up.

Capture The Problem

 

3. Organise The Problem

So the next thing is to organise and this is where the affinity diagram comes in.

You’re going to have a pile of sticky notes.

If you’ve got huge characters, they might be putting up twenty sticky notes about all the things that are wrong in their life. You know, the cat got sick on the carpet, everything will be out there.

Now you’ve got to organise it as a team and this is where an affinity diagram is just brilliant.

Essentially what you say is, “Wow guys we have a lot on there, what are the overall categories?”

Now, as a group, you can start categorising the problems one by one.  So if one of the categories is money, you move all the sticky notes that relate to money or budget together.

Others might be related to team communications, so you move the sticky notes related to that.

Eventually, you’ll be left with your finished diagram, with five to seven, maybe even ten different categories of problems.

So remember we started off saying we’re just upset?

And then we said, “here’s everything we’re upset about”, and now we’ve discovered we’re actually quite upset about money and team communications and whatever else.

So do you see how far we’ve come with a diverse team in a pretty simple exercise?

Organise The Problem

 

Now here’s the one…

 

 

4. Prioritise The Problem

Okay, you’ve got everyone around the table, you’ve got everyone to stick up their post-it notes, everyone’s helped arrange them.

The last step is to prioritise.

And this is the biggie.

Which one are we going to focus on, team communications first or money first or whatever else it is.

Which one are we going to focus on first and then which one will we focus on next?

Usually “and then, which will we focus on next”, takes away a lot of the angst about “I want my thing to be done first”.

The discussion will go something like this:

“Well, actually you’re right. The money one, I understand why if we resolve that one or attack that one, that’s actually our biggest problem, and after that we’ll move on to team communications.”

It allows everyone to participate in that.

There are a few really cool tools you can use to prioritise.

You can vote on this.

The really cool one I like to use is when you give everyone three sticky notes, basically three votes, and everyone gets up and sticks their votes next to the categories they think are most important.

Then you simply count the number of votes next to each one.

So everyone can see as a group, “we voted for that one”.

And it just allows everyone to move on in a co-ordinated way.

 

Prioritise The Problem

 

So after you’ve prioritised, now the hard work begins but the hard work is so much easier when you’ve had this discussion.

Everyone is on the same page, everyone understands how you got to this arrangement, everyone participated in it.

 

My 3 Essentials To Making This Work

So here are the three things that are really important that actually make this work.

1. Visible

It’s visible.

It’s very visible.

Everyone can see how you got from “I’m upset” to “we’re focusing on this”.

Everyone can see that there are no hidden agendas and how it all worked.

Everyone’s able to contribute.

Everyone saw their ideas going up there.

I can see all the stick notes and there’s one of my ideas, there’s another one, there’s another one, there’s another one.

I can see visibly how everything worked and how I came to that conclusion.

What You Need To Get Agreement - Is It Visible?

 

2. Inclusive

It’s inclusive.

I didn’t say capture ideas only if such and such.

I said capture everything because we’re then going to organise it.

So it’s very inclusive and that really appeals to human beings.

You’ve all seen quiet people who will just have one post-it note up there and they’re afraid to say it, but it’s up there.

And you have the loud people who have 20 post-it notes and they can see their stuff there as well.

So you managed to include all the different personality types and agendas all on one.

What You Need to Get Agreement - Is It Inclusive?

 

3. Diverse

And the third thing that’s probably the most important thing is, out of the group, so if there were ten people, you’ve managed to get ten different perspectives on why you’re upset.

And that is hugely positive, because you’ve been able to tease out of all the different brains around the table how they view the problem, how they view why they’re upset, and you’ve brought all of that to bear on your problem.

That is hugely powerful.

You know yourself, if you are asked to come up with a solution to a problem just by yourself, you’ll come up with maybe three or four ideas.

Put two of you together, you come up with five or six.

Put a big group of people together, especially when they’re diverse and those egos and agendas are colliding, they will have a diverse set of opinions and a diverse set of drivers.

You will get some brilliant perspectives.

You will learn, just by this exercise, so much information that you had no idea about before.

So it’s a very valuable experience for everyone to do.

What You Need To Get Agreement - Is It Diverse?

 

 

So go and tackle one of those problems that hasn’t sorted itself out yet.

Again, don’t be afraid of those egos and agendas.

You have a tool that you can actually use and put to work right now.

Go have fun with it.

 

If you haven’t already done so, be sure and sign up for my FREE insights and training on how to Master Your Income. And if you’re a podcast person you can subscribe to the Career Hacker iTunes podcast.

 

How To Make Brainstorming Even Better

Avoid Group-Think In Brainstorming Sessions

Don't Be Afraid Of Egos And Agendas

 

Transcript

(In case you don’t understand my Irish accent)

Hi I’m Keith McEvoy, CEO of Success That Works and Founder of Supercharge Academy.

Right. Got a little present for you this week.

It’s something that you probably hit more often than you want to.

It’s when you’re in a room or on a conference call with lots of different people who have different egos and agendas and there’s politics flying around and there is lots of emotion and you’re thinking to yourself how on earth are we going to make sense of this chaotic situation, because if someone doesn’t take charge and if someone doesn’t grab hold of this, then we’re going to waste a lot of time, we’re going to probably spend months and months and months moaning about the same old problems and we’re going to get nowhere.

In fact, this has probably happened to you all the time.

There’s probably loads of problems that you already have that you’re on yet another conference call about something and you know it’s barely going to move forward.

So, here’s a trick.

This is a beautiful one, especially if you’ve got a boss that maybe thinks they know more than they do and they don’t allow other people to join in or you’ve got those awkward colleagues from, you know, you’re in procurement, they’re in finance, they’re in sales and marketing and they don’t quite talk together because they’ve got very different views.

Well here’s a way to get it all together very quickly.

This thing takes maybe about an hour, but it’ll save you weeks and weeks and maybe even months of your time.

And, by the way, you’ll be a superstar because everyone will go, “How on earth do you do this?”

So, here’s how you do it.

 

So the first thing is get the people you need either on a call or ideally around a table and the first thing you do is you ask a really dumb question and you get them to state, whoops, “state” (You didn’t notice that right. I didn’t write stote, I wrote state, okay?) State the problem.

What is it that everyone thinks the problem is?

And you’d be amazed because, quite often there isn’t an agreement on the problem.

And normally when that happens the best thing you want them to do is say actually, do you know what, let’s state the problem as, “we’re all upset”. Right?

Or something that’s very generic that no one can say “hang on a second, I’m not upset” or “I don’t care.”

State it generically because if you state something generically like “we’re upset”, then everyone can nod up and down and go, “do you know what, I can agree to that” and everyone else can agree to that.

You’ve just brought a group together. Right? Very simple trick, well it’s not even a trick, it’s just humanness.

 

The second thing you need to do is, okay let’s figure out what’s going on?

And I call this stage capture. Okay?

And I use a little tool, it’s called an affinity diagram. I’ll just write it for you, affinity diagram.

And it’s a way of gathering out of people’s brains, what’s actually going on. And doing it in a way that first of all, it allows everyone to get what’s in their brains and what’s worrying them out, but also doing it in a way that’s semi-safe and people feel that they do want to contribute in and especially to get off their chests what’s actually worrying them or upsetting them.

So normally what I do is I use stick-its or post-it notes to do this and really easy if you’ve done brainstorming before, very like brainstorming. Actually there’s a trick to this that I’ll show you to actually make your own brainstorming even better.

With the affinity diagram, you’re just looking for patterns and normally what I do is we’re all upset.

I’ll ask, “Okay, what’s upsetting you?” A very simple question, “what’s upsetting you?”

And it allows everyone to go off and go, “actually I am upset because my customers are shouting at me down the phone”, “I’m upset because spending too much money on this”, “I’m upset because my boss doesn’t listen to me”, “I’m upset because…. ”

You just gather it all and the first time you do this ah, it starts off normally three or four, and then you stick them up and you go, actually Bill is upset because Keith keeps stopping his videos and not running through to the end. Okay?

Now here’s the trick. As you start sticking them up, right , you’ll see some people say for brainstorming sessions: stick up and don’t query. Well that’s frankly wrong. Okay?

What you want to do is when someone sticks up a stick-it notes to say, you know I’m upset because it’s costing me too much money. Right? Now this is really important. You need to allow everyone else around the table to say, “well hang on a second what do you mean by that? “So if I say, “it’s costing me too much money”… “well, I don’t get it”. Right? You allow them to ask the question and go, “what you mean by that?” “Well actually it’s from my budget and it’s costing me $10,000”. “Why are you spending that?” “Well, because no one else is going to”.

And it allows the conversation to develop a bit so that everyone starts understanding what each of these is. So in a way it allows me to say what’s bothering me, but it allows everyone else to ask questions that allow them to connect with what’s bothering me and that’s really important that everyone gets to understand everyone else’s perspectives, because in a typical brainstorming session, everyone puts up the sticky note but you don’t ask and understand why exactly someone put that up and it leads to, first of all, group-think, which is terrible because if you don’t understand what that sticky note actually means up there and you haven’t had the opportunity to ask about it, well then there’s no way can you consider and understand what’s actually behind that note.

So really important, allow people to ask questions as you put it up.

 

So the next thing is to organise and this is where the affinity diagram comes in.

So what you’re going to have is a pile of sticky notes depending on if you’ve got huge characters, they might be putting up twenty sticky notes about all the things that are wrong in their life. You know, the cat got sick on the carpet, everything will be out there. Yeah?

So it’s all gonna be up there. Now you’ve got to organise it as a team and this is where an affinity diagram is just brilliant. Because essentially what you say is, you know you look at the board or wherever you’ve got your sticky notes and you go, “Wow guys we have a lot on there, what’s the overall categories?” and everyone will look and go, “do you know what, I think there’s one about money”. So euros or dollars, yeah? And you go, “which ones?” And they’ll say, “well, my one’s about money”.

So you move the sticky note there and you keep moving the sticky notes that relate to money or budget and someone says oh actually my one is not about money, it’s about team communications so another team communications, yeah so you move the sticky notes related to that, “oh yeah my one’s about that too” yeah?

And eventually, you’d be left with your finished diagram, you’ll be left with maybe five to seven maybe even ten different categories of problems. Yeah? So now we’ve gone from, remember we started off saying we’re just upset, yeah?

And then we said, “oh here’s everything we’re upset about”, okay, and now we’ve gone to actually, “do you know what, we’re actually quite upset about money and team communications” and whatever else.

So do you see how far we’ve come with a diverse team in a pretty simple exercise?

 

Now here’s the one. Okay, you’ve got everything around the table, you’ve got everyone to stick up their post-it notes, everyone’s helped arrange them.

Last step – prioritise. And this is the biggie. Okay?

So “which one are we going to focus on team communications first or money first?” or whatever else it is. “Which one are we going to focus on first and then which one will we focus on next”. Right?

And usually “and then which will we focus on next”, takes away a lot of the angst about well I want my thing to be done first. “Well actually you’re right, the money one, I understand why if we resolve that one or attack that one, that’s actually our biggest problem and after that we’ll move on to team communications” and allows everyone to participate in that.

And there’s a few real cool tools, you can vote on this or the really cool one I like is you give everyone three little sticky notes, basically three votes, and everyone gets up and they stick their votes next to the top of the communications and you simply count the number of little votes next to each one.

“Oh yes as a group we voted for that one”. And it just allows everyone to move on in a co-ordinated way.

So after you’ve prioritised, now the hard work begins but the hard work is so much easier when you’ve had this discussion, everyone else is on the same page, everyone else understands how you got to this arrangement, everyone participated in it.

 

So here are the three things that are really important that actually make this work.

The first is it’s visible. It’s very visible, everyone can see how you got from “I’m upset” to “we’re focusing on this”.

Everyone can see that there are no hidden agendas and how it all worked, everyone’s able to contribute, everyone saw their ideas going up there too, even at the end look there’s one of my ideas, there’s another one, there’s another one, there’s another one. I can see visibly how everything worked and how I came to that conclusion.

 

The second thing, it’s inclusive. Yeah? I didn’t say capture ideas only if such and such. I said capture everything because we’re then going to organise it and we are going to organise it. Yeap, so it’s very inclusive and that really appeals to human beings because you’ve all seen quiet people who will just have one post-it note up there and they’re afraid to say it, but it’s up there and you’ve the loud people who are 20 post-it notes and they can see their stuff there as well.

So you managed to include all the different personality types and agendas all on one.

 

And the third thing that’s probably the most important thing is, out of the group, so if there’s ten people, you’ve managed to get ten different perspectives on why you’re upset. And that is hugely positive because you’ve been able to tease out of all the different brains around there, how they view the problem, how they view why they’re upset, and you’ve brought all of that to bear on your problem and that is hugely powerful.

You know yourself, if you are asked to come up with a solution to a problem just by yourself, you’ll come up with maybe three or four ideas. Put two of you together, you come up with five or six. Come up with a big group of people especially when they’re diverse and those egos and agendas are colliding, they have a diverse set of opinions and a diverse set of drivers.

You will get some brilliant perspectives, you will learn, just by this exercise, you will learn stuff that you had no idea about before. So it’s a very valuable experience for everyone to do. Right?

 

Okay, so go and tackle one of those problems that haven’t sorted itself out yet. Again, don’t be afraid of those egos and agendas. You have a tool that you can actually go and put to work right this second. Go have fun with it.

So if you enjoyed this video and find it useful I’ve got two things that you actually do right this second. The first thing is to click the button just here and subscribe to my youtube channel and that means that you won’t miss any future episodes from me and the second thing that you can do is if you click the button just here you can sign up for my weekly newsletters which have loads of free tools and insights and lots of really cool stuff that basically will help you to go and earn your worth in a job you love with a great work-life balance because you so deserve it.

 

If you haven’t already done so, be sure and sign up for my FREE insights and training on how to Master Your Income. And if you’re a podcast person you can subscribe to the Career Hacker iTunes podcast.

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