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.