I could potentially go into several blog posts on this topic…and I just might. If you have worked with a team at any level, I’m sure this bit of criticism isn’t unfamiliar. So what manager, nay, what person who has a different opinion doesn’t speak up when it matters to that person? Well, presumptuously the ones who don’t want any conflict, (cue Katy Perry’s Roar). But, for those who can’t sit quiet during these “heated discussions” the next biggest struggle they will face is determining how much being right means to them over the relationship of the person they’re about to duke it out with in the battle of wills.
As all of us have either experienced firsthand or observed from afar the argument with some “know-it-all”, we all can understand the dopamine-inducing event of being the smartest person in the room, however fleeting the moment is. I mean, look at our long-standing history of trivia gameshows and I’ll take Leadership for 400, Alex.
Mr. Trebek: Usually tinged with resistance and argumentativeness, the appropriate setting to use your infallible logic to attempt to counteract or modify direction given by your superior in professional or similar circumstances.
Answer: What is the appropriate, yet elusive, time and place?
References aside, I do pity anyone with poor situational awareness in these circumstances. I imagine the more direct advice that will be given is that when you’re the leader you give direction to your team, but you change roles whenever you’re the follower. Don’t question the system!
I get it, but a part of me, the one with a servant leadership mindset, wants to push back on that status quo. Other than a few iconic scientists, I don’t know of any leader or manager who had all the answers all the time nor do I think there will ever be one. Followers need to be heard and feel comfortable giving their thoughts. On the large scale, there’s still a lot of resistance and hesitation for followers to give their ideas on solving problems because their experience tells them their ideas aren’t going to be received well anyways. So, why bother? The lack of resistance from having a trusting relationship with your team is a key difference between managers and leaders; leaders will be open to listening to their followers, which needs to be the new status quo.
So, how do we get this open dialogue to be the new professional practice norm? When do you let your decision become superseded by a follower? Does it even have to be viewed as a power struggle to allow someone else to have the answers? Wouldn’t the long-term benefits of listening and helping the next generations of leaders be better than just having your decisions fulfilled? Are we looking at this the wrong way entirely? A lot of hypotheticals to think about and don’t worry: I promise my rant will come back to the original question. The preamble ramble was intended to describe where the circumstances of “choosing your battle” may or may not have stemmed from.
DON’T QUESTION THE SYSTEM
When it comes to arguing a point one feels strongly about…well, I don’t know how else to say it other than they’re probably going to bloody argue! Especially when the outcome could be disastrous on multiple magnitudes. Not that the other party/parties have insidious intentions, but when the reasoning behind the decisions are “this is the direction that’s being given” or otherwise not explicit it’s difficult to get buy-in.
Unfortunately, I’ve been on the end where I’ve given that exact reason; the shame and disbelief from reimagining those circumstances giving the non-committed and passive shoulder shrug is cringe worthy. I think there is room to have a more expansive, trusting conversations around the reasoning with decisions, which can be applicable in settings beyond the office. What are the right questions to ask when you feel you’re at an impass in an argument? How do you rekindle the transparent conversation to get some honest answers and re-engage the buy-in? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below and thank you.
LinkedIn: Kait (Kaitlin) Cook
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