Use This Leadership Tool: “Switch and Commit”

Key Point: As a leader you need to know how to encourage “differing without dividing.” It is an important skill for creating the best possible solution and can be supercharged by combining it with another tool I’ve introduced to you previously called STP. I’m literally using “switch and commit” with my current executive crew. It works! 

My top team is a high functioning and effective group and the goal is to have us all commit to a commonly accepted target (or end of process) without causing a huge and unnecessary rift. So we begin our one-on-one conversations by agreeing on what the end point (target) is. Each member of my team has their own preferred view and after hearing that perspective, I ask them to switch and argue another, differing, and opposing viewpoint. These are challenging conversations that involve an organization restructure. This technique in the leadership tool kit is not intended for determining “where to eat lunch.” It is an effective process that often plies open opportunities or solutions not originally considered and is best used when challenging issues that require compromise and an abundant outcome (that initially may feel like a loss). It can be utilized one-on-one or in team meetings. The source for this tool is reinforced and attributed to a Stanford blog that refers to a recent Barnett Talks article. The following outlines the author’s approach:  

“I prefer ‘switch and commit.’  The goal is still to end up committing at the end of the process, but during the decision I want the participants to switch roles.  The person disagreeing with you needs to take your position and argue it well.  Similarly, you must argue the other’s view well. You can think of the approach as devil’s advocacy taken seriously by both sides.

I first tried ‘switch and commit’ when teaching a controversial topic at Stanford. For the first assignment, the students had to state their position on the topic.  For the second, big assignment, they had to write an essay taking the opposite view. (They did not hear about the second assignment until after they handed in the first.)  The end results were some fantastic essays, because the authors were legitimately skeptical.”

The author goes on to note how he currently uses this technique for hard-hitting business topics. It doesn’t always work because some people struggle to open themselves to an authentically opposing viewpoint. He goes on to say though… “An exceptional leader (and I might add… colleague…) appreciates the value of differing without dividing.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Encourage “differing without dividing” by practicing and using the “switch and commit” tool. Your best leaders and teammates will commit to the end goal or “target” and then be prepared to vigorously explore a differing and ultimately not divisive dialogue. 
  2. Intentionally encourage people to argue another person’s perspective real time in group meetings. It creates greater understanding and empathy. It also promotes ideas that spring from constructive and creative abundance (for example, how do I make this a win versus a loss).
  3. Ask switchers to not only pursue the other viewpoint from a content perspective but also track the feelings or emotions that ride along with the “switch.”

Differing without dividing in the Triangle, 

Lorne 

Edited and Published by Garrett Rubis

Millennial View: Most millennials are probably at work for one thing: To get amazing, noticeable results that keep you progressing, relevant and wanted. Arguing “hypothetical” alternative view points to “better understand” how to reach a common target sounds nice in theory, but the fact of the matter is, I’m going to get the job done no matter how I feel… I don’t have the “pull” to sway a company objective. I can live with that now. It seems like millennials automatically “differ without dividing.” We just want to get our work complete, so is talking about a hypothetical alternative getting in the way of that? 

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