Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/steverad/public_html/wp-content/themes/freshnews/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things

February 3, 2010

Personal, Prof. Development

Image Courtesy of Flickr User pboyd04

Have you had a disagreement with your boss about the direction of a project? Did you actually voice your difference of opinion with him, or did you grumble about it silently but do what he told you anyway? If you answered the latter, then you’re not doing your job as effectively as you could be. Sure, you might be getting good performance reviews and winning awards, or maybe you’re flying totally under the radar, putting in your eight hours and doing exactly what’s expected of you. Or, you’ve dutifully accomplished every task your boss has asked of you. That’s great – I’m happy for you. I just wouldn’t want you on my team.

You see, here’s the thing – if you can’t think back to the last time someone at work, be it a boss, manager, junior employee, intern, etc. has yelled at you, debated something with you, or flat out argued with you about something that you did, how do you know how much more you could have done? How do you know if that briefing really should have included your slides if you didn’t make your case to include them? Can you remember the last time you asked someone on your staff to do something and they pushed back and said, “how about we try it this way instead?” How about the last time you felt strongly enough about a project you were working on that you didn’t take “no” for an answer? Can you remember a time you argued for or against something you truly believed in?

You see, the people I want to work with are the ones who are naturally inquisitive, who will put their neck on the line for something they believe in, who aren’t afraid to send me an email and tell me that I’m flat out wrong and here’s why. I want to work with people like that because that’s how I am. Every problem is an opportunity to fix it. Ask for forgiveness, not for permission. If there isn’t a policy stating you can’t do something, then that probably means it’s allowed, right?

For us social media and Government 2.0 champions, we pretty much make our living taking our colleagues, clients, and bosses out of their comfort zones, showing them new ways of working and new ways of thinking. We’re the innovators, change agents, and in some cases, instigators. We have our battle scars, our stories of almost getting fired, and our half-completed resignation letters, you know, just in case ;)  On the other hand, many of the most innovative and groundbreaking social media initiatives began with an argument or a debate.

And I’m here to tell you that that’s OK. You know why? It shows me you’ve got some passion. I’ll take a passionate, enthusiastic worker who sometimes takes things too far over a conservative worker who does exactly what I tell him every time every single time.

Booz Allen has ten core values – professionalism, fairness, integrity, respect, trust, client service, diversity, excellence, entrepreneurship, and teamwork. Interestingly, no where on that list do I find the words “agreeable,” or “passive,” or “obedience.” While I try to live by these core values every day, I also know that I can have professional and respectful differences of opinion, arguments, and lively discussions. It’s this ability to give honest feedback and to engage in honest dialogue that is common of most social media and Gov 2.0 evangelists. We probably don’t have any special degrees or titles, but we aren’t afraid to take a risk and try a new way of doing things. Reprimands, arguments, and nasty emails are sometimes just part of the job.

Innovation isn’t easy. It involves risk-taking, debates, differences of opinion, and often, some good old-fashioned arguments. That’s ok. That’s part of what makes it innovative. Truly transformative initiatives aren’t the result of achieving consensus at senior committee meetings or from a memo from the Director. They’re achieved every day, step by step, argument by argument, by the people who see an opportunity and who don’t just take no for an answer.

, , , , ,

About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

View all posts by sradick

23 Responses to “Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things”

  1. John Able Says:

    Amen!

    A symptom of viral “agreement-with-the-boss syndrome” in my agency culture is the preference for the word “challenge” instead of “problem.”

    I like a healthy dose of optimism as much as anyone, but there’s a difference between a challenge and a problem. A problem, at least from an engineering perspective, is generally something that must be solved to make something work. Failure to solve the problem is failure. Apollo 13 told Houston they had a problem, not a challenge. They either solved it, or they didn’t get back home.

    A challenge, on the other hand, makes it sound like, gee boss, it would sure be nice and useful and fun if we can do that. But if we climb Pike’s Peak (in the car) instead of K2, we’ll call it good. Hahaha.

    The challenge cult is really engaged in reality-avoiding happy talk, and is a sure sign of obsequious toady-hood. Isn’t the first step in restoring passion to our work, especially those of us in government, to actually start working on the problems and leave the challenges for the weekend.

    Man, you struck a nerve and a chord! Thanks!

  2. John Able Says:

    Amen!

    A symptom of viral “agreement-with-the-boss syndrome” in my agency culture is the preference for the word “challenge” instead of “problem.”

    I like a healthy dose of optimism as much as anyone, but there’s a difference between a challenge and a problem. A problem, at least from an engineering perspective, is generally something that must be solved to make something work. Failure to solve the problem is failure. Apollo 13 told Houston they had a problem, not a challenge. They either solved it, or they didn’t get back home.

    A challenge, on the other hand, makes it sound like, gee boss, it would sure be nice and useful and fun if we can do that. But if we climb Pike’s Peak (in the car) instead of K2, we’ll call it good. Hahaha.

    The challenge cult is really engaged in reality-avoiding happy talk, and is a sure sign of obsequious toady-hood. Isn’t the first step in restoring passion to our work, especially those of us in government, to actually start working on the problems and leave the challenges for the weekend.

    Man, you struck a nerve and a chord! Thanks!

  3. sradick Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the post John although I think this is a problem much greater than simple terminology. As one of my followers mentioned to me on Twitter, “sometimes we just agree b/c disagreeing can only hinder your career/goals.” It’s unfortunate that in some organizations, disagreement and career progression have become mutually exclusive.

  4. sradick Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the post John although I think this is a problem much greater than simple terminology. As one of my followers mentioned to me on Twitter, “sometimes we just agree b/c disagreeing can only hinder your career/goals.” It’s unfortunate that in some organizations, disagreement and career progression have become mutually exclusive.

  5. cheap nikeshox Says:

    I like it, very good
    I like it, very good, Particularly in the Authority pages.

  6. Nike air force Says:

    Here products xx, has fashion model, superior quality and service, cheap price and updates quickly.I support strongly always! I want to buy XX, Original I hesitate to select which style more better.Hope your unique recommends.

  7. air max shoes Says:

    Well , the view of the passage is totally correct ,your details is really reasonable and you guy give us valuable informative post, I totally agree the standpoint of upstairs. I often surfing on this forum when I m free and I find there are so much good information we can learn in this forum! the-boate

  8. coach Says:

    I love travelling so much that I often surfing on many journey forum to learn knowledge about trip, and I think this forum is the best, from where I got the newest information about journey. Here I want recommend some excellent websites ******, There are many good products help you make a good journey. htttp://www.scarf8.net

  9. telegraph fantasy football Says:

    I think that some disagreement is good to keep things in perspective. The important thing when you have disagreements is not to let things get out of hand. It then could become not so nice then.

  10. Noel || vintage lights Says:

    I found this article refreshing…I do agree that having an argument can be stimulating and can encourage you to come up with more strategic ideas..

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. abranches (Sergio Abranches) - February 5, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    RT @ConversationAge: Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. ConversationAge (ConversationAge) - February 5, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  3. jpdaly (John Daly) - February 5, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    Mornin’ everybody, one to getcha started … Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things -[link to post] (via @ConversationAge)

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  4. davidtc (David Newberger) - February 5, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    RT @jpdaly: Mornin’ everybody, one 2 getcha started … Disagreements & Debates r Good Things -[link to post] (via @ConversationAge)

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  5. jpdaly (John Daly) - February 5, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    @davidtc thx for the RT David. (BTW, your day isn’t necessarily going to be bad, maybe you’re ‘pre-disastered’ now.) #allbetterfromhereonout

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  6. rosskimbarovsky (Ross Kimbarovsky) - February 5, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things [link to post] (via @ConversationAge)

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  7. sradick (Steve Radick) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    Innovation requires disagreements and debates at work – how do we make them more acceptable? ([link to post]) #gov20 #opengov

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  8. jessweiss (Jess Weiss) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    So timely & true RT @sradick Innovation requires disagreements and debates at work – how do we make them more acceptable? [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  9. sradick (Steve Radick) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    “Innovation isn’t easy. It involves risk-taking, debates, differences of opinion, and arguments” ([link to post]) #gov20

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  10. NahumG (Nahum Gershon) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick: “Innovation isn’t easy. It involves risk-taking, debates, differences of opinion, and arguments” ([link to post]) #gov20

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  11. JeanneRose (Jeanne Flynn) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick: Innovation requires disagreements and debates at work – how do we make them more acceptable? ([link to post])

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  12. sradick (Steve Radick) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    Disagreements and debates at work are good things ([link to post]) – it’s ok to have a health argument every now and then #gov20 #e20

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  13. govloop (Steve Ressler) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    RT @sradick: Innovation requires disagreements and debates at work – how do we make them more acceptable? ([link to post]) #gov20 #o …

    Posted using Chat Catcher

Leave a Reply