By Maurie Cashman
Are you managing agreement effectively in your business? This is probably not a question you take time to consider often. So much air is sucked out of the room by the more popular topic of conflict management that we donâ€™t take much time to talk about its evil twin â€“ the seeming lack of conflict.
In â€œIt Depends on Where You Startâ€ I talked about the importance of having a solid set of information as a starting point. This often consists of having your business valued and doing a thorough evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Many business owners I talk to feel that they have things well under control and really donâ€™t sense many problems. They may be blind to significant issues that are lurking just under the surface.
One of the questions I like to ask is how long employees have been with the company. Many owners are extremely proud that their loyal employees have been with them for 15 or 20 years, and this may be an important advantage. The next question I ask is when one of them seriously challenged your business strategy. I donâ€™t recall ever getting a specific answer to that question.
I next ask when they last talked seriously to one of their outside advisors about the business. The answer is generally that they talked to their accountant the last time they had their taxes done. Was strategy discussed? Generally not at all or at most, it was about tax strategy.
This is a key deficiency in many closely held businesses. The owner has been in control for so long that he or she is rarely, if ever, challenged. To the contrary, many owners are surrounded by employees and advisors that donâ€™t dare challenge them. Their jobs and relationships are dependent in their minds on keeping you happy, which often means telling you how smart you are.
The specific name for this is the Abilene Paradox. I learned about this back in the day when I taught Total Quality Management courses. The Abilene Paradox essentially states that a group of people will do something that they donâ€™t consider to be the best course of action rather than rocking the boat by disagreeing. The problem is worsened by the presence of a strong leader and becomes more embedded in groups of people who have been together for a long period and are mutually dependent on one another.
No one wants to tell the emperor he has no clothes.
How can you better manage agreement?
- Ask for input before stating your intentions. By asking first, you are getting advice that is less likely to be tainted by what your advisor thinks you want to hear.
- Ask why? Why should be a key part of every discussion you have, whether with an employee, and advisor or even when you are considering something yourself. Why does this make sense? Why might it not make sense? Why hasnâ€™t someone already done this? Why am I being advised to do it? Why isnâ€™t anyone challenging me?
- Seek out advisors that will challenge you. This may be the most critical piece. Your employees may be afraid to challenge your ideas or to put forth ideas of their own. If your advisors are not challenging you perhaps you should ask them for their thoughts. If they are unable to provide the advice you need, you may need to seek out different advisors.
- Hire people that are distinctly different from you. By actively seeking out people that think differently than you, you are building a team that can see around the corners and into the blind spots that you cannot find.
There are many kinds of conflict. Sometimes the seeming lack of conflict is a warning sign that you are not getting the input you need. I donâ€™t know about you, but I have been to Abilene, and Iâ€™d prefer not to make it a habit.
Â© 2016 Aspen Grove Investments, Inc.