Fighting to Understand: Company Culture and Perspective

by Josh McAfee

What is the quickest way to tear down communication, divide teams, and drive off talented employees?

Conflict. There can be many causes of conflict and some can be more detrimental to the success of your team and company than others. 

One of the top contenders for causing the most discord and one that can inadvertently get built into your company culture is the singular focus to win or always be right. From promoting projects to claiming the sale to receiving praise, the need to be perceived as the one on top no matter what can end up hurting everyone involved, including the winner. 

Winning isn’t a bad thing. We all want to win. The trick lies in HOW those wins happen. 

When you have several teams, divisions, or departments that are trying to get something accomplished and they all have different perspectives. Each of them will have a different priority and that may be in direct conflict with another employee or department. In fact, sometimes a win for one group will mean more hardship for another. That breeds resentment and disengagement. 

What I found is that if leaders build out a culture of trying to understand versus trying to win, the collaboration increases dramatically and becomes something that brings people together. They’ll be empowered to come up with much better solutions. 

Done right, they end up in a spot where the conflicts don’t really feel like conflict at all. Instead of an argument and people walking away feeling like the loser, it becomes something that people are more comfortable being part of. Ultimately, that saves the entire company hassle and improves the employee experience, increasing retention and productivity. It’s often as simple as asking “tell me more” when someone shares or pushes something you are in conflict with.

What does it mean to fight to understand versus win?

Team Member Company Growth Employee Performance DevelopmentWhen someone is fighting just to win, their perspective is typically limited. They’ll feel righteous in their battle for what they perceive as right, without regard to the impact the conflict and outcome will have on others. 

They’ve identified a problem and truly believe their solution is the best one. Devisiveness arises when someone else sees the problem from a slightly different angle and brings a solution more in line with how they perceive things. At its core, the issue is often the myopic viewpoint each party is taking. Overall value for the whole of the team or company can become muddied or entirely lost. 

Trying to look at things from multiple perspectives and angles is what really brings teams together to find amazing solutions and keep talented people growing. Encourage a trusted space for everyone to share their data, build off each other’s ideas, and test theories without anyone being the “loser.” Highlighting how each moving part within the company will benefit from the solution will increase awareness of the total impact decisions have and promote collaboration. 

You’ll end up with a faster growing company, a faster implementation of solutions, more excitement around that, and more importantly, less mistakes and conflicts, a happier and more stable team.

What steps have you taken to encourage that fight to understand in your company?

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Josh McAfee is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Humans Doing. With over 26 years of recruiting and team-building experience, Josh has worked with startups, SMBs, and large companies to determine hiring needs, develop our recruiting strategies and processes, and connect top talent to fuel growth. In 2021, he became a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author with his book Measure Up: Mastering Your Career Search Like a Boss.

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