Thursday, September 3, 2009

You Gotta....Know When to Fold 'Em

I still remember the meeting. We had debated an issue with energy and passion. There were a host of opinions about the topic. Everything was laid out. We evaluated various alternatives. I heard from all sides. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed courses of action. Then it was time. I made my decision. Everyone was ready to go. Everyone…but one guy. He thought it important to “state for the record” that he opposed the decision. Oh man…did this ever bother me. We had transitioned from decision-making…to decision. And this guy was still fighting. And then I watched as he tried to reverse my decision, and then undercut it during execution. Wrong answer, dude!

There is a time and place for debate. During the decision-making process -- yes. While alternatives are being discussed -- yes. But once the decision is made -- nope. At that point, there are only two ways to proceed:

1. Embrace the decision as if it was your own. Execute with vigor and do all you can to see the decision work out for all. Execute…and accomplish the mission. Git ‘er done! Or…..

2. Leave the team.

Quite frankly, the third way, to undermine the decision, to work covertly (or even overtly) to tube the mission…is unacceptable. You cannot be a part of the team and work to help the team fail. No whispering, spreading rumors, cynicism, or back-channel deals that prevent mission success. Be a part of the solution, not a schemer to make the problem even worse. There can be only one leader. And if you are not it…then deal with it! If you can’t live with the decision, vote with your feet and leave the team. Otherwise, you’ve done your duty in expressing your opinion. Now do your duty and help the team be successful. As the old country song goes – “You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em….”

So here’s the skinny. Fight for your beliefs and opinions before the decision is made. Leaders – encourage debate and solicit alternatives from all sides before locking in on the way ahead. Give everyone a chance to speak and listen to all alternatives. But once the decision is made…everyone has got to be – ALL THE WAY IN (see the last post!). No team can be successful if team members are allowed to undermine, undercut, or otherwise move in directions counter to the mission. The team must be all the way in!

It is encouraging to see US policy making working this way. Rigorous debate on things like health care, war, and energy policies reflect this approach. The town hall meetings are a beautiful thing to observe…and we should have them as a matter of routine! But once the decisions are made…we have to be all the way in. We have to execute in a way that accomplishes the mission, not as mindless robots but as members of a team -- committed to see the team succeed. Adjustments can be made along the way (and of course debate will continue on those adjustments) but…we cannot have the dysfunction that comes from a house (or a nation) divided. We have to find a way to be all in, to work together to reach our objectives! (Note…I say this not as one suggesting one way or the other is right, but one who knows that we have not been united in our commitment to success for many years and hopes there is another way!)

This is a message to all of us. We are all part of teams, we all report to someone. Let’s lead by example in this approach. Let’s build teams that respect all opinions, that encourage debate, and that understand this concept of being all the way in. Once the decision is made, let's know...when to fold 'em. It is the only way a team can be successful. That makes it…Leader Business.

So what do you think? Am I right? We’ve all been in positions like this, whether as team leader or team member. Let me know where you stand on this.

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1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Debating with passion...interesting!
I agree and disagree with your point of view. First, I agree that if you are going to fight for your beliefs, you must do it before the final decision is reached. It's not only about beliefs however, it should be about facts, therefore over and above the strengths and weaknesses as you mentioned, opportunities and threats should be part of the discussion or presentation.

What I disagree with is your comment about "there can be only one leader". This is not necessarily true. Just because one person is making the final decision, this does not mean the other team members are not leaders. Each and every member of the team brings a different set of skills to the group. Individually they are leaders in their area of expertise, and they will lead the team to success because of the knowledge and skills that they have. But, as you stated, they have to support the decision of the leader of the team and work together to accomplish the mission.