First Class Coach

Article excerpt

I'm locked in a dispute with the sales director. As marketing director, I have a longer-term strategy that could make the company the leader in the field. His views about what's required are all very short term and could be damaging over time. How can I get the board to accept my ideas over his?

It sounds as if winning this argument is important to you personally, not just for the company. When we feel strongly about something, at work or at home, it is not unusual to generate animosity towards those who represent what we construe as the opposite of our point of view. What might start off as logical and rational quickly becomes personal. It's important to us to 'win'.

This is a natural reaction but one that needs to be transcended. The more adversarial you become, the more closed your mind is to other possibilities, including the one that the other guy might be right. You also make it easier for the board to think you are pursuing your own agenda, rather than one that is genuinely for the benefit of the business. And, in these circumstances, if you succeed in getting your way by force, your victory will be a hollow one, because you will have set up an antipathy that gets in the way of the effective functioning of the company.

Research among successful leaders shows an ability to resolve dilemmas as a key distinguishing feature. In wanting the board to accept your ideas over your fellow director's, you are pushing for a resolution that is less than optimal. As my colleague Ginger Chih says: 'The strongest position is in the integration of opposites. In trying to force acceptance of your view, you are asking the board to take on the weakness of both cases, not their strength.'

Your ideas could lead to success; his ideas could be damaging: both assertions bear some investigation. Unfortunately, in trying to resolve the issues, the result is often lowest-common-denominator thinking, rather than highest common multiple, agreeing a compromise rather than finding a solution that incorporates the best understanding and ideas all parties can bring.

Any strategy is only as strong as its weakest assumption in the argument, so it's worth working out what are the less robust points of your logic chain. Identifying these will enable you to improve your strategy, seek data that will validate your hypotheses, and perhaps even question and change some aspects of your plan. …