Today my team and I had a rather interesting conversation concerning a key element of our strategic planning. The conversation revealed strong feelings about particular aspects of the issue at hand that, if handled incorrectly, could divide the team.
In one sense, I’m blessed with a team who is dedicated to our common vision. In another, I do have members with strong opinions and feelings about the possible scenarios that we are evaluating for our strategy. I’m driven by the following: “Our goal is to create an outcome that represents the best feasible course of action, given the circumstances.” I’m facing a bipolar situation: one scenario is the one we are the most comfortable with, has worked well in the past, yet has features that are not supported by key executives and the current administration in the White House without adequate and substantial justification and rationale. Another scenario is one with which we have little to no working knowledge or experience, does have many attractive features about it on the surface, and is strongly supported by key executives and the White House.
My team and I decided to pursue gathering a better understanding of the latter scenario. We are in the process of actively seeking information and inputs from a variety of sources to help us in our evaluation. There are elements of my larger team, however, who express varying degrees of comfort with the latter scenario, one in particular to the point of being dead-set against it: “If you recommend that option and it is accepted by the executives, I will salute; however, when asked I will speak up about my objections to it.”
As the leader of the team, I feel obligated to uncover those kinds of objections early. I’m trying to do this by asking this question: “Let’s assume we go with the last scenario as our proposed strategy. What stops you from supporting it?” Getting beyond the emotional reactions to it, I’m looking for concrete items that will lead us in one of two directions: (1) risk mitigation steps that have to be identified to support the scenario; or (2) deal-breakers that rule out that particular scenario and serve as the rationale and justification for pursuing a different strategy.
It’s a different way of thinking for some, and I certainly do not profess great expertise in pursuing this course of action. Yet I do strongly believe that this process will serve us well in reaching the best, feasible course of action to pursue for our strategy, will serve as proof positive of the supporting rationale and justification, and will engender the buy-in we need to be successful.
Today as we were going through this process, we had strong feelings that surfaced; at one point, one of my team members called for a “time-out” when voices were getting louder in volume and conversations were arguing positions rather than ideas. With the help and understanding of my team, we did uncover five items that we need to address, no matter what scenario we choose. In that regard, today’s conversation was 100% successful.
In the end, I’m not seeking 100% agreement or to make everyone happy. My goal is to achieve “yes” to the following question of everyone on my team: “Have we got a well-though-through strategy that we can all feel committed to implementing, and that everyone can live with?”
When I achieve that result, I will know that my role as the leader of the team was successful.