Is Your Need to be Right Killing Your Company?

BY Kathy Crosett
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As a member of the c‑suite, you’re under pressure to produce. When things go well, everyone celebrates. When your big plan fails – the unpopular merger, for example — the buck stops with you. You’re also the one who must swing the ax when it’s time to reduce head count, a painful but sometimes necessary task. When you come up for air after one of these unpleasant experiences, do you ask yourself how you could have engineered a better outcome?

 “Getting in your own way” is the topic of John Stoker’s recent SmartBrief post. Stoker warns that senior managers sometimes fail because of their own stubbornness. Executive leaders can become fixated on what they believe is the sole solution to an existing problem. They refuse to listen to well-​reasoned arguments presented by their top assistants. After all, they’ve been successful until now. All they really want from their executive team is affirmation.

The problem is, leaders aren’t right 100% of the time. When they blunder on, oblivious to the unbiased advice from their team members, they’re not just risking the company. They’re risking the job security of everyone on the payroll.

Other managers pretend they’re hearing the advice of their trusted advisors. But then, they’ll continue to argue. They’ll insist their plan is rock-​solid. They’ll keep explaining why their decision is the right one.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, take a time out. You’ve appointed an executive team to help you improve the company. If you ignore their advice, do you honestly think they’ll give you their true opinions in the future? Think about the situation from their perspectives. They’ll conclude that voicing dissent is not in their best interests. Choosing to disagree with you could get them demoted, or even terminated.

Running a business is part art and part science. You have to sense when it’s time to stand firm and when it’s time to change course. There’s nothing wrong with being obsessed about meeting the goals you set for the company this year. Just make sure that the rest of your team is truly on board. Solicit advice. Listen to the advice. And, if you choose not to follow the advice, thank your team members for their original thinking. Explain why you’re opting to pursue a specific merger, or a job candidate who nobody else supports.

Not every initiative that you and you team pursue will succeed. But, if you ask for help and seriously consider the advice you’re given, team loyalty and your chances of success will increase.