What’s the point?

Dear Executive,

I have often wondered why rational humans with some level of intelligence exhibit very irrational behaviours and obscenities, just because someone has an opposing view. I wonder. This becomes even more profound in the C-suite, where an executive feels an idea on the table may not be the right one and expresses it for the good of the organization. You can guess what happens next.

I think more than ever before, the time for unhealthy rivalry should be over. As you will soon leave the scene. Trust me you will, very soon in fact. It does not matter if you have 4 years or more or less, the fact is, you will soon exit. What will your colleagues like to look back and recall about working with you and your ability to receive feedback?

I have often told clients, that we don’t mind competing with others, but we will certainly not demonize our competitors! Some of which help us to become better, by the way. That’s what receiving feedback is all about.

I love a good argument, and often suggest something I may not believe, to see how well I can roil things and defend the position. I believe that intelligent and valuable people can have opposing points of view. It’s fair to debate the view, but sickening to demonize the opposition.

Once we create labels we create emotional “shields” which prevent all rational communication thereafter. I might disagree with your choice of a movie, but that doesn’t make you (or me) a troglodyte, ignorant, or bereft of decency. It simply means that you saw more humour than I could unearth in, say, “Spiderman.”

The media—including the social media platforms—have abetted this tendency to condemn any individual’s existence, or a group, or a country, ethnicity, or a religion. We are certainly all, by any objective criteria, more similar than dissimilar, except for what chugs along the synapses inside our heads. I can dislike an opposing politician’s point of view without hating the person. I can disagree with a movement without demanding the expulsion of every member from the community.

What is the point?

Thomas Jefferson noted once that, in matters of taste, swim with the tide, but in matters of principle, stand like a rock. We seem to be throwing rocks—and worse—at every difference in taste, orientation, and perspective.

My point is to agree and accept that we can differ in our views, but we must have the overall health and sustainability of our enterprises at the back of our minds. I am convinced of one thing though, we all must brace up for a new kind of workplace, where some of our decisions will be challenged, for the right reasons. We must be ready to give convincing proofs that our decisions are superior.

Our nation needs men and women like you to help take us to that place called “paradise”. It’s not up to the politicians and the economists, etc. It’s really up to you and I. Exemplary leadership is about the courage to be unpopular when the going gets tough. And the humility to accept that you have been wrong as well.

Looking forward

We need to show our colleagues and peers that:

  • We mean well for all in the enterprise and its owners
  • We need to look inward in offering opportunities to our local firms, both large and small (creating and sustaining jobs)
  • Be guided by fair principles of recruiting the right people for the right jobs at the right time
  • Be willing to show patriotism for our nation’s growth rather than others

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Be guided by good principles and remember, it “could be me” flexibility that brings progress