Leadership and the Devil’s Advocate: Saint or Sinner?

“Yes” men, “No” men, or some happy medium (“men” used for convenience, and is in no way gender-specific)??

Do we want our closest and/or brightest to agree with us merely because it was our idea? Or are we actively seeking constructive, challenging dialog??

Must we always have complete, obedient agreeance (not a real word, but my baby sister Elizabeth always used it, so here it is), or do we really want diversity of thought?

Personally, I believe that when really smart, well-intentioned people disagree, the final outcome or decision is always – ALWAYS – a better one.

Further, I’ll also opine that “diversity of thought,” particularly in leadership decision-making, is one of the only valid business cases for intentional, purposeful “diversity” in an organization.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it…

And let’s be clear: I’m not talking about that crap-magnet Joe/Jane pain-in-the-butt employee who always disagrees, simply for the sake of disagreeing. Nor am I referring to those schmucks among us who are simply rabble-rousers looking for attention via a cause they can denigrate.

I’m talking about smart, well-intentioned people disagreeing and able to substantiate their disagreement with logic, data, and thought. I believe it’s a good thing. So, how do we get it to happen? Well, I’ll tell you how…

First, you must provide a forum. There has to be an accepted arena, vehicle, or secret handshake, code-word, or ring-knocking ceremony where those with contrarian views know they can share.

And don’t be shy – advertise this forum.

Next, like birth control, there has to be a “safety-first” mentality. Those who may disagree must know (not just hear) that their well-thought, well-intentioned disagreement is welcome – in fact, expected – in the course of regular dialog. And that they won’t get shot between the eyes for doing so.

Finally, it’s gotta matter. Naysayers, contrarians, devil’s advocates – whatever the name – have to see their push-back accepted as input and occasionally alter decision-making some of the time if you really want it to continue.

Being “accepting” is good, but not good enough. You’ve got to be prepared to actually USE their unpopular inputs. Go figure…

I once worked with a CEO who would frequently tell me that “If you and I always agree, one of us in unnecessary, and I’m keeping my job.”

Early diversity at its best. Thanks, Russ.

But, that’s just me…

KB
Kevin Berchelmann
www.triangleperformance.com

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