In my long experience in Vistage UK I have collected several great techniques and methods that have stood me in good stead in chairing my group.
For fairly obvious reasons a major part of the process is to challenge the members to make sure that they drill down into an issue to establish the root cause and then to help the group to offer their opinions as to the solution that is the bit they enjoy the most.
It has been wisely said that there is nothing so satisfying as telling other people how to run their business.
This can, however, be a painful process for the presenter of the issue because while they know, deep down, the solution they do not like the answer and would prefer not to hear it or take the suggested action.
We realise that the whole rationale for joining a peer group like Vistage is to learn from each other and to have someone to listen to them in a safe environment. However, when the chips are down it can be difficult to absorb and to accept.
A wonderful word borrowed from Vistage colleagues in the USA is:
and that neatly encompasses all that is good in a business relationship.
How then does it work? In essence it emphasises that challenge is essential; not, you will accept, on the basis of reprimand but rather in the mode of questioning and constantly searching, as Thomas Edison said, for a better way to do things.
However, the human psyche being what it is, there is always a possibility and sometimes a probability for defence mechanisms to be unleashed whenever an idea or a method is challenged.
There is nothing worse than the defensive rebuttal to challenge. It slows everything down, promotes argument that is usually unproductive, and generally drains energy from the situation.
The question to ask, then, is why do people become defensive when they are challenged? In some cases it can be a matter of pride, even a matter principle, in some a fear of seeming inadequate and under certain conditions, even a feeling if rejection, none of which add to the effectiveness of the individual.
The whole carefrontational approach means that although the team member is challenged (and why not in a go-ahead business?), it is done in a way which maintains respect and that, to my mind, is an essential in all working relationships.
My friend, mentor and top Vistage speaker, Lynn Leahy taught me long ago that there is a major difference between being assertive and being aggressive although it can be a short step from one to the other.
Lynn says that being aggressive implies top-down authoritarian management whereas being assertive means that while a point can be made in a forthright way, it will always be made with respect to the opinions and feelings of the other person.
In other words, people can be challenged in a forthright way while still being shown that combination of care, understanding and respect that is the right of everyone to expect.
The result is far less likely to be defensive and will more likely be positive and productive, an outcome always to be desired.
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