Sunday, August 15, 2010

To Agree or Not to Agree: Consider the Value of Listening to Your Dissenters

To Agree or Not to Agree: Consider the Value of Listening to Your Dissenters

My first job when I moved to Phoenix in 1999 was doing word processing with a small law firm. Was interesting how there seemed to be a revolving door with the attorneys at the firm,while the staff had all been there for years. The longer I worked at this law firm and the better I got to know some of the people, it became evident that one of the biggest issues with the firm's founding partner was his utter unwillingness to tolerate dissent. If his lawyers didn't agree with him and toe every inch of the line, they probably weren't long for their jobs.

I left the company in 2002 to start my business, and can't really comment on how well the firm is doing today, except to say that they've dropped from the Top 20 in largest firms in the Valley in 2001 to near 60th place in 2010. Growth isn't necessarily the first sign of progress, but it's a decent indicator.

Although I know from personal experience what it's like to want to be right, life has taught me how valuable it is to entertain opinions that different from mine. It's so easy for anyone in business to seek out sycophants, people who always tell you what you want to hear. But it's braver, smarter, and ultimately more rewarding to regularly confer with those who have a different perspective.

The thing is, when people constantly reaffirm and validate us, it's easy to begin to believe that we are always right and that we always know best - when in reality, we're all fallible. But it's not just about making mistakes. It's also about considering new ideas for our business, listening to customer complaints, taking into account shifts in our industry or the market.
Even if you're on the right track, 
you'll get run over if you just sit there.
                                                                                               - ROY ROGERS
Of course there's a lot to be said for continuing to do what's working. And when you know to your core that you are right - even if no one else agrees with you - it often makes sense to follow that hunch and stand your ground. The point is that in order to grow, you've got to keep moving, changing, and adapting. That's unlikely to happen if everyone on your team constantly yesses you. Be wary of those, however, whose only goal is to argue, dissent, and disagree. Some people just thrive on being contrarian, and they are equally dangerous as the constant agreers.

Surround yourself with a good team, and be willing to listen up when someone has a new thought or disagrees with you. They might point out a flaw you overlooked, have an idea for a new direction for your business, or simply share a perspective you'd never considered. Ultimately, your decisions are up to you, but entertaining dissent can be a very smart business decision.

Have a great story about a disagreement that led to a business success? Share it in the comments section below!

This is Day 26 in the 60-Day Content Challenge. See you tomorrow for the next post!

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