Picture this: You’re in the midst of launching a project at work and a colleague comes to you with some ideas about an aspect of it. They have a lot of experience in that area and seem to have put a lot of thought into it. However, you have some ideas about how that aspect of it should work that are different.
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s say that you don’t have data or other information to point you towards one direction being the “right” way to go, so these two ideas are starting on a level playing field. You have a decision to make:
- Tell your colleague “thanks but no thanks” and go with your original plan.
- Let your colleague run with their idea, even though it conflicts with yours.
Let’s play this out.
Option 1: Thanks but no thanks
You decide to go with your plan regardless of what others bring to the table. You get everything done and launch and it’s all your way. You did it completely by yourself with no help because you rejected the outside input of others. It’s exactly the way you want it.
BUT… in the process you’ve pissed off your colleague by dismissing their work, their ideas, and their experience. You’ve reduced the likelihood that they’re going to come to you with ideas in the future. And, if you’re this person’s boss and consistently have this type of response when they try to be proactive, you’re ensuring that their morale and productivity are going to drop, meaning you won’t have the full advantage of their talent and experience.
|You win…||You potentially lose…|
If getting what you want is your most important long-term goal, this approach might be a good option.
Option 2: Let them run with it
You let your colleague run with their idea. It’s different than your idea but that doesn’t mean it won’t get the job done. They are excited that you were open to their idea, which makes it more likely that they will come to you with ideas in the future. You know this is a good thing, because having a diverse set of points of view helps achieve a stronger end result for your audience. Their may even be opportunities to collaborate, so you can still achieve aspects of your vision in the process.
|You win…||You potentially lose…|
The final product for this option isn’t your vision for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong – remember, you’re starting from a place that doesn’t have data either way, and you can always iterate later. The major difference in choosing option #2 is that you leave your colleague with the feeling that their proactive ideas are valued, motivating them to bring more of them forward in the future. You’re the person they want to work with, instead of the person they avoid.
When you give people a win, you win too.
These two scenarios could have played out any number of ways – these are just two examples. The overarching idea is this: If you can get some of what you want, and engage other people at the same time, that is always preferable to getting 100% of what you want and pissing people off. Work is a long-term prospect, not a one off. That means you need to keep the bigger picture in mind and generally speaking, you can’t be a one man show forever. You need other people to help you achieve results.
Inherent too is that there is always more than one way to skin a cat. You might have a vision for how you would like something to play out but that doesn’t mean it’s the only viable way to go. Falling in love with your approach (or just being too stubborn to consider others) is a surefire way to turn your colleagues off from working with you. That’s not to say that every decision needs to be collaborative and by committee, but there is a balance between “my way or the highway” and rule by committee. If you can bring other people in and give them a win, that is a far bigger victory than achieving your one man show moment of glory.
As you rise in the ranks, this becomes more important
The principles here apply to all people at all levels – finding a win-win is never a bad strategy. However, as you rise in the organizational ranks and gain more responsibilities, doing this becomes even more important. Practically speaking, as you advance, you need others to help you achieve your goals – there is no possible way for you to be a one man show.
But more importantly, the culture and character of your organization is top-down. If you approach things as “my way or the highway”, you’re going to attract and retain a very specific type of employee – the mediocre kind that isn’t engaged or proactive, always waits to be told exactly what to do, and brings little passion or enthusiasm to their role. Those type of people aren’t necessarily bad – they are good worker bees – but they aren’t exceptional either. Exceptional employees want to be involved, have their ideas considered, and be given opportunities to do what they do best. Throw that out the window, and they go with it.
So what’s more important?
Getting your way, or engaging others and giving them a win? When you put your ego aside and think about the big picture, the answer is clear. This is a game of chess – don’t play the move right in front of you. Play the one that’s five moves ahead. Sometimes, that might involve sacrificing a piece or two in order to take the win.
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