Do you have a good enough relationship with a subordinate that they can openly challenge you?
Are you comfortable enough with yourself to handle this?
Do they trust you enough to fight with you? This sounds funny, but it really is a sign of a great relationship and great leadership.
Think back in your own history. Compare your past leaders. Did you always feel comfortable being completely open and discussing things when you didn’t agree? We’re not that far away from the “shut up and do what I told you to do” industrial age after all.
If you didn’t feel comfortable with some of those leaders, what was the working relationship like?
One of my best leaders and I would sometimes have heated discussions. These arguments would usually have to do with consistency when the issues of the moment would cause us to forget what we were building and the culture we wanted.
Now, this guy wasn’t an uncaring jerk of a boss. This was a great leader who really cared. Even the best can get off track.
I think back on those situations and wonder what would have happened if I just kept my mouth shut.
What would have happened if he didn’t allow me to voice my opinions, call him on inconsistencies, and force him to be better?
I think of all the learning that I would have missed if we didn’t have these squabbles. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always right. ;-}
These discussions were a part of our culture. Full staff meetings sometimes erupted into loud yelling matches across the table. That sounds horrible even writing it but really it was more like a big family dinner – think large Italian family with lots of hand gestures. The fireworks were fun, they showed everyone’s passion, and they always provided lessons. And, nobody missed a meeting. They were not boring.
Of course, everyone’s personality is unique and I’m not suggesting our free-for-all, knock-down, drag out discussions are best for everyone. But what they represented was a deep trust and passion for the vision. Nobody ever held a grudge because we truly understood the motivation behind these discussions. In our case the worst thing to say to an idea was “fine.” It would mean you didn’t care.
To do this week: Look for opportunities to invite debate from your team. Can you throw a little controversy into the mix and show that you are OK with open discussion? Are people engaged or are they just going with the flow? It’s important to know the difference.
Let me know how it’s going. I really want to know! Click the “No comments here?” box below and participate in a more in-depth discussion on LinkedIn.