The scene is the conference room. The actors are the leadership team members of the business. You are there, sitting at the table. You have hard problems to solve – perhaps customer-related, perhaps product-oriented, perhaps financial, perhaps strategic. You have a decision to face: will you tackle the really tough problems that are facing you? Or will you defer those difficult decisions to another day, another meeting, another agenda?
Before you decide what you are going to do, let me tell you a story – the real-world story of another conference room and another team of leaders. This team, too, was faced with several thorny topics, including a significant change in the way they would manage their client accounts. The change that needed to happen would improve operations and be better for their clients, but it was a big change and therefore intimidating.
The team members rolled up their sleeves and tackled the topic. “Tackled” is a good word for what ensued, because it wasn’t all sweetness and light around that conference table for the next several hours. There was discussion – but there was also arm wrestling. The team members engaged in a lot of great, healthy conflict. They had different points of view and were able to voice them without resorting to personal attacks.
By the end of the session, the team had resolved exactly what they were going to do and how they were going to do it – and they all had confidence that the new way of interacting with their clients would be better for everyone involved … clients and company alike.
You would think that the team would wrap up there, wouldn’t you? Actually, they went on to tackle two other major issues during that day-long quarterly leadership team session. More debate. More arm wrestling. More diverse perspectives. And, finally, more resolution.
At the end of the day, the participants rated the meeting in terms of its effectiveness and quality – a standard practice for companies running the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). Given the amount of back-and-forth (some of it rather heated), you might be surprised at the outcome. The team members gave this quarterly session the highest rating ever in their history. That’s right: the highest rating ever was given to the meeting where the team tackled the toughest, ugliest, and most challenging issues ever with plenty of heated, but healthy conflict.
This is not an isolated instance. In our experience, every time a leadership team has the courage to talk through tough issues in a healthy manner, the meetings are viewed as much more satisfying and successful. In fact, team members tend to have greater respect for one another and an enhanced ability to collaborate after facing up to tough issues.
Is it easier to play the avoidance game? Perhaps. But success in business is not gained by taking the easy route. As we teach our clients, success is achieved when we “go to the danger zone.” That is, it is achieved by tackling the thorny problems that will always arise, knowing that such meetings may cause some tension, fear, or anxiety. The key is to take on challenging issues with courage, integrity, respect, and care … acknowledging differences, appreciating diversity, and working together to find a solution that everyone can get behind 100%.
So, if you are facing a thorny issue right now on your leadership team – as you probably are – don’t let the fear of disruption or conflict or tension stop you from tackling it. Go right into the danger zone.