Getting People off the Fence

On every team you have a range of personalities, which is a great thing for finding the best solutions to the problems encountered.  Each of these personalities has pros and cons to them.  Today I am going to take a look at the fence sitters.  These folks are the ones who wait and wait and wait to commit to a course of action.  They are hard to move into action.  However, not all of their impact is negative.  Let’s take a closer look.


  1. Need fully developed plans.  The fence sitter wants to know which decision will be the winner.  To get them to move the path forward must be clear and well paved.  This means that the team must fully think through their decisions and manage the associated risks. 
  2. Typically neutral on ideas.  This team member is the one who is looking for both the good and the bad of every situation.  Often they have no bias towards negativity or overly positive positions.  They can provide balance during the evaluation phase.
  3. Good listeners.  Here is the person who wants to hear what everyone thinks before they will speak up.  Their desire to know what the right decision is means they are looking for information so they can be great researchers and sounding boards.


  1. Too slow to act.  Waiting until everything is well known and all risks are controlled can mean that action comes too late if required to get them on board.  There are times when action must happen quickly.
  2. Unwilling to speak up.  By weighing all the options before deciding it can be hard for the fence sitter to speak up and voice their opinion.  This can mean that valid concerns go unheard.
  3. Can dampen enthusiasm.  Their reluctance to move forward can dampen the enthusiasm of others who are excited about the possibilities even in the face of all the unknowns.

The best way to take advantage of the pros and minimize the cons is to get the fence sitter to ask questions of the team, find out what they need to know to commit and place deadlines on getting to the next step.  These things will get them involved, help manage their concerns, encourages them to share their ideas to minimize risk and yet keeps a sense of urgency in front of the team and holds them accountable for a decision.

You may need to draw a line and tell the team it’s decision time so speak now or forever hold your piece.  It can be tough love at times, however getting the fence sitters involved and engaged can lead to better decisions.

Please share what you have done to get people off the fence.

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Filed under Leadership, Team Building

4 responses to “Getting People off the Fence

  1. Great points Carol. I agree that many times we wait too long to act and need to move much a bit quicker to get the momentum going forward. Have a great weekend 🙂

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