Imagine what would happen to the attitude, spirit and culture of your company if its leaders were going at each other like the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. I used to enjoy the political process, but, these days, the name calling, twisting of facts and negativity spew like toxic waste. Well, the same thing happens in a company when its leaders clash and go negative. It’s like parents fighting in front of the kids. Sometimes the wounds never heal.
Opposing views, differences of opinion, even radically bold ideas, are the foundation for healthy debate. For leaders, especially business partners, keeping the debate open, free spirited and positive is vital – it’s the essence of no-compromise leadership thinking and behavior. When the debate turns negative, it’s more about ego, control and power. While the leaders are self-absorbed in their battle, the company, its employees and customers become nothing more than pawns in the game.
Here are some no-compromise strategies for leaders to keep the debate positive:
- If there’s a winner, there’s a loser: Leaders serve the company and its employees first. Power plays and ego clashes demoralize cultures and destroy companies. Always keep the bigger picture in focus. Always consider the cost the “loser” will pay and if your win is truly worth it.
- Don’t take it personally: Healthy debate is about the issues and ideas. It’s about seeking resolution and solution. It’s about discovery and enlightenment. It is not about you. When you make it about you, the debate turns negative and ugly. People around you are forced to take sides. A good debate always ends with a handshake.
- Maintain respect: I sure wish political candidates would tell me more about their ideas, solutions and what they stand for, rather than berate and trash talk their opponents. When leaders resort to low blows, their followers take the hits too. Who wants to follow and believe in a leader who doesn’t understand the meaning of respect?
- Get the facts straight: Stirring up drama and controversy when you only have a piece of the story is a surefire way to disrupt and derail a company. I haven’t done a Neilism in a long time, so here goes: The no-compromise leader seeks to understand what’s actually in the pot before he or she stirs it.
- There are ideas that are better then yours: No-compromise leaders encourage creative thought in those they lead. When leaders fall in love with every one of their own ideas, creative thought ceases to exist. Employees figure why bother. It’s fine to debate your own ideas, but when other ideas start to make sense, it’s time to listen and learn.
- The good of the company should drive the debate: Problems, mistakes and setbacks happen to the best of companies. It’s the leader’s responsibility to inspire creative thought and innovation to overcome obstacles and keep the company on course. Be relentless in communicating that debate is healthy when it’s focused on doing what’s best for the company. This is especially so when a company is working through challenges. If it’s good for the company, make sure everyone knows it.
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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership
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