Value 1d: Disagree Constructively

At Blue Raven Solar, we have three values:

 

1. Develop a High-Trust Culture

2. Be Efficient

3. Continuously Improve.

 

Each value is accompanied by four statements that try to capture what living this value means for us.

 

Developing a High-Trust Culture means 4 things for us.

 

1a: Keep commitments to homeowners, sales reps, employees, installers, technicians, vendors, and investors,

1b: Close the loop – report back to each other,

1c: Respect and empower one another, and

1d: Disagree constructively.

 

Value 1d is our topic today. The value to “disagree constructively” captures two distinct ideas for us.

First, for a moment, let’s forget how we should disagree. We are simply saying that people at Blue Raven should disagree when they disagree.

 

Is this counter-intuitive? Wouldn’t you think that a trusting culture would rather have people nod their heads “yes” most of the time? Doesn’t disagreement invite conflict?

 

Yes, disagreement invites conflict. It means saying what you think. It means people know where you stand. And it’s essential to building trust. Who do you trust most in your life? Who are your closest friends and advisors? These are the people who speak truth to you, even when it might be difficult or upsetting. These are the people you trust (or at least these are the people you should trust)!

 

Now, when we do disagree, we like to do it constructively. As American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says, we should listen to the rider, not the elephant. We should seek to counteract biases. We should be open to new ideas. We should rely on facts when presenting evidence. As Steven Covey taught, we should always seek first to understand, then to be understood. We should restate what others are saying before we seek to persuade. We should describe the impact of certain behaviors or processes in a factual way rather than speak in generalities or in emotionally-charged ways. Being polite also goes a long way. Yes, we seek to disagree constructively.

 

For us, however, and especially as our organization grows — the hardest part is preserving a culture that disagrees in the first place. This is the backbone of trust, and we work hard on it here. It’s also essential for good decision making.

 

We asked employees how they experience value 1d at Blue Raven Solar. Here is what a few of them said:

 

We all come from different backgrounds and experiences.  I love the culture we are providing to disagree constructively – as people are aware this is a value, they listen and understand more openly than feeling attacked at a given situation.

 

The culture at BRS has encouraged everyone to have open constructive dialogue.

 

We are always looking for ways to improve. Sometimes we disagree with one another when trying to figure out the best way to approach a problem. I feel like we do a good job of hearing everyone out, and using information and data to help back our decision making.

 

One of the best things at Blue Raven is that no matter what you talk about and who you talk about it with your opinion or idea is respected, even if it is disagreed with. Instead of a fight, you get a constructive conversation. You learn a new perspective and you might even change your opinion or idea and they could possibly do the same. I personally am a very stubborn person and set in my ways. Everyday when I come to work, I let that guard down and leave my stubbornness at home. It is a big relief.

 

Recently I was able to dispute the way a metric of mine was measured with a supervisor. We were able to have a constructive conversation while still disagreeing.

 

We constantly disagree – it’s how we make things better. We look at what both sides of the problem raise and then find a solution in the middle that improves the process for both sides and the company. We constantly update our processes to accommodate the growth we experience.

 

We might disagree (from time to time) about specific policies and procedures, and how best to implement them, but we don’t disagree on the overall goal – to provide a great service, to earn a living, and to enjoy doing it.  That’s the prevailing attitude in our department.

 

As I’ve brought up concerns or had questions about an issue, I’ve received the utmost respect when I’ve expressed those thoughts.  They have helped me understand the direction of the team, department, and company. It is amazing to know that I won’t be ridiculed for sharing my opinion or trying to improve the team.

 

In the installs department, it’s common for there to be small disagreements on the right way to do things. Since I’ve started, I’ve always felt that everyone is open to new ideas and criticism is rarely intended to be offensive.

 

Everyone has different ways to accomplish goals, sometimes it’s different than mine or others but we always seem to find a way to handle it together.

 

Debating direction and execution is a way of life at Blue Raven. There are many confident and bright people who work here — and that translates into strong opinions. Unlike other places I’ve worked where people don’t question why things are done a certain way, it’s expected to disagree and debate the validity of both sides to make a decision.

 

We frequently have differing opinions, but we use them to fuel discussion and improvement.

 

Once in a while, my unique professional experience and personal convictions call on me to be the one who either disagrees or, at least offers constructive criticism of business strategies my team is outlining. When that has happened here, I’ve always felt like my coworkers have heard me out, and either made rational counterpoints or reached agreeable compromises. 

 

I’ve never felt like I wasn’t heard or acknowledged when sharing an idea, even if I end up being told I’m not looking at it the right way or we end up moving forward with a different plan when dealing with a problem. It makes it easier to continue to share my thoughts because 1) I feel safe to do so without fear of getting shut down and 2) Disagreeing is another learning experience that helps me make more informed choices when doing my job.

 

In training when giving opinions on how to do a process, our trainer would disagree with us constructively without making us feel dumb or inadequate and would guide us back on the right path or correct answer.

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