Typically, I love it hear when I hear the words: "I fundamentally disagree."
It's usually something of a challenge to be relished. Professional and courteous discourse and debate enrich all our personal and professional lives.
I am a keen exponent of learning my craft, of understanding an issue by looking at it from as many different angles as possible.
I am as likely to be found reading the Guardian as I am the Telegraph, or reading judgements from the likes of the Financial Ombudsman Service as reading what the advisory community has to say about them.
Exploring the other side of an issue or argument will often lead to some form of enlightenment, even if only in a minor way, or to confirm a point of view already held.
An open mind comes with a host of great advocates.
It was Albert Einstein who said: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change your mind.”
I've always felt that exploring different opinions and sources of information and critically assessing a situation for accuracy and nuance is the best approach.
Sadly, particularly in the era of social media, this seems to less fashionable than it once was.
I was brought up to respect the tenet of being able to agree to disagree.
It may be that even after a calm and reflective look at an issue, I still disagree with the other side of the argument.
If that's the case (unless the counterargument is obviously offensive, unethical or illegal), I should be able to maintain my professionalism and courtesy and be able to disagree with dignity.
Managing disagreement within your team
As financial planning practices grow, scale and mature, this is perhaps even more important.
Different generations within our businesses will have different expectations of behaviour, discourse and opinion.
But that doesn't mean we should shy away from a culture of honesty and speaking out on our own points of view. Just as we should respect the honest opinions of others, it's right that they should respect ours.
To build this out a little, here are a few lessons about open-mindedness I have learned along the way.
1. Honesty about an issue as you see it is always the best policy, but be aware that others may not see things in the same way.
2. A culture of respect within a firm is a fundamental requirement. However, beyond the standard respect due to everyone, respect for effort and role should be measurable in order to be earned.
3. To fundamentally disagree is more than a statement. It's a pre-cursor to a discussion, during which all participants should be able to express their points of view with evidence and with the respect of others.
Disagreeing is not a full stop to a debate. Except in the most extreme circumstances, that approach is both lazy and disrespectful.
4. Hearing the opinion of colleagues, particularly if carefully presented and evidenced, is a courtesy you owe them. They are generally free to express those opinions, and should be encouraged to do so.
5. We should be open to feedback. In a business setting, feedback is often given with the aim of improving outcomes for the individual, the team and the business.
Accepting this demonstrates a maturity to grow and learn, and an ability to think critically, adapt and empathise with others.
6. To seek the truth and to be willing to grow is an incredibly powerful trait to show an employer and your colleagues.
7. Creative thinking comes from a willingness to discuss and see others’ points of view.
While there is a debate about ‘group-think’ and wanting to conform, hearing others’ points of view and being personally flexible on an issue can contribute to better joint outcomes.
8. It's more than acceptable for someone to think differently to you.
They will have a different experience, role or responsibilities, and may enjoy a different business viewpoint to yours, but this hardly makes their views less valid than your own.
If offered with respect and courtesy, it's more than likely they're trying to aid their understanding of all sides of the issue.
It's all too common when there's disagreement or an alternative point of view given for offence to be taken.
This can lead to a refusal to engage, or worse, walking away from the conversation entirely. Perhaps this is actually what is offensive.
So be open-minded, and engage in a collaborative culture. Continue to show respect to both the leadership and the team within your practice. Any business will be all the better for it.
Taking any approach other than one of courteous open-mindedness - now that's something with which I fundamentally disagree.