HOW TO BE A LEADER WHEN YOU DISAGREE?

At times, we find ourselves in situations we don’t particularly like. Specifically, when the firm’s decisions go against what we think is right.

 

But the discussion within your practice group has gone on forever. In the end, you’ve nodded, worn out, not convinced. You know communicating it internally will cause friction (and some team members have been on the fence for a while).

 

You’re apprehensive.

 

In no uncertain terms, your leader has made clear the role the partners should be playing.

 

And now it’s up to you. How do you deal with it?

 

People who work in a professional services firm are bright, energetic, and opinionated.

 

Frankly, every senior professional is a know-it-all. Believe me; I’ve been one of them.

 

And, yes, firms at times confront us with decisions we haven’t bought into. Yet the expectation is that we lead: follow through and implement.

 

My perspective changed when I moved into a leadership role myself

 

When I realized that there’s a time for discussions, a time for decisions, a time for execution, and – frankly – a time to lead: to grow up and shut up.

 

Because it’s not always a life-or-death decision, frequently, it’s just inconvenient to go with it: That new rule on how we time-sheet the hours? The new policy on mandated training participation? Yet another little finesse on how we travel? And the list goes on.

 

In many firms, issues can be discussed at length. It never stops – constant revisiting, a new spin to the same-old, all the time.

 

It’s agonizing. But eventually, it’s time to move on. It’s all exchanged; there’s a decision. And now it’s about execution from the same sheet of music.

 

However, more often than I cared to see, it was not about executing; it was about apologizing. Apologizing to team members for the decision the firm or the practice group had just taken. Frequently with the precursor, “not really my idea, but … !” or “But I didn’t agree.”

 

Leaders lead

 

Well, you may have not. But people don’t care, and it won’t buy you any additional credit. What it will buy you, though, is team-member and leadership irritation.

 

Team members, who wonder what the highly-advertised culture in the firm is all about? Your leadership wondering why on earth you refrained from being a leader and didn’t step up? Instead, you decided to “die on that hill.”

 

So, what can you do in times of different views when you don’t quite agree?

 

Engage positively and focus on what you can impact! Make things happen in your patch.

 

Without getting too distracted by all the systemic noise, every firm beyond a certain size is privy to entertain.

 

That’s the way to go! Give it a try next time.

 

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