Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Argue your way to good decisions

If you observed my Friday afternoon leadership team meetings, you might think we are the most argumentative bunch of folks on the planet. And with good reason.

We are.

You might further think we constantly fight, back stab, and never agree to anything.

You'd be wrong.

Respectful disagreements
From the time I interviewed and recruited the team, we've interacted with respect. During interviews, I challenged their beliefs. I wanted to know how they handle a differing opinion by someone "in authority." Could they defend their position without becoming defensive? Could they acknowledge a counterpoint even if they didn't agree?

I didn't ask the "Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss" question. I wanted to disagree with them and see how they reacted. If you are going to do behavioral interviews, then you might as well elicit behaviors.

One important point. Even in heated discussions involving critical decisions, we maintain respect. We don't throw things; we don't shout; we don't name call.

High Standards
Every member of my leadership team is excellent at what they do. They have selected each other as much as they've selected me. We expect the best from each other and push each other. We don't want to let each other down.

Keep this in mind when you recruit. I've found that if you hire wrong, the team descends to the lowest common denominator. Hire well and your team rises to levels of achievement unreachable individually.

What type of person is better equipped to be wrong and make a change? One with low self-esteem or one with high self-esteem?

Correct - high self-esteem. If we felt that our self-worth was tied to being correct, we would never get to problem resolution. We would be too busy defending our self-esteem.

So what does all this lead to (other than ending a sentence with a preposition)?


Freedom to acknowledge a better idea. Freedom to ask for help. Freedom to admit a mistake. Freedom to learn from each other.

What matters is that we arrive at a good decision. Equally important, it is a decision that has been argued, ripped apart, challenged, and extensively reviewed. When I walk out of the room, I'm confident a good decision has been made.

That is why I love leading this group of argumentative folks.

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