Typically when most people think about their role as a boss, leader or manager they often think they need all the answers or that they know best. As a boss leading a team of employees you are responsible for meeting some objective in some time-frame. Often you will decide how to accomplish that goal and through what activities to push down to you team. During your staff meeting you start rolling out the goal and the plan to get there. Then something happens, one or more of your staff respectfully challenges your direction. What do you do?
As you scan your team members sitting around the room you begin to realize several things. First, this is the team you built. You have mentored them and groomed them into the thinkers and executors that they are today. Second, you hired many or all of your team members because of the experience they had and what they could bring to your department. Third, they are probably more connected to the operational logistics or are client facing and will have different perspectives or ideas on how to execute the plan. They will also know best what dependencies your plan may effect. So what do you do when they begin to challenge you?
We need to realize that it takes a great deal of confidence and a certain level of comfortability for someone to challenge their boss. You should foster an environment where your staff won’t have fear or feel their job would be at risk if they take a stance on something you are rolling out.
You have to allow them to just do. Let them know you hired them because of their experience and knowledge. As their boss you don’t have all the answers, nor should you. You should also remember you need them more than they need you. You should allow them to share what they know even if it goes against your view or of the situation. The right way for them to do this would be to disagree because of x facts and statistics. If they just disagree but are missing a compelling why, this gives you a great opportunity to coach them reach the next level on how they can handle expressing what they know in a manner that will be better received.
Yes (wo)men are in every department and every team. These are the people who sit in meetings agreeing either through nodding their head or verbally only to exit the meeting and totally bash everything that was rolled out. One of my favorite sayings is “after the meeting ends the debate begins”. You cannot begin to understand how unproductive this is. Passive-aggressive agreement can destroy your team and your business. Praise those people who say what’s on their mind, as it happens, in front of the entire group. This will allow for an environment where those who may be intimidated to raise their hand may be more compelled to do so. This won’t eliminate those yes (wo)men but it should reduce the number of them sitting at your table.
Embrace the other points of view. Your staff is knowledgeable and capable otherwise you would not keep them around. Points of view, opinions, perspectives whatever you want to call them are what make companies and products great and are the very foundation of innovation. In order to be a part of the next big thing or in order to be collaborative, everyone needs to speak up and to share in the risk. When you foster an environment where your staff can express their opinions, be heard and valued your team will accomplish so much more.
The main points to consider when your staff challenges you are:
- You don’t have all the answers and shouldn’t have them
- You need your team and depend on them to provide the knowledge and skills your hired them for
- Ensure they feel a part of the decision making process (when they ask what should we do, turn it around and ask them)
Don’t be confused with my message. There are times when you need to role something out that is non-negotiable. In those cases use your actively listening skills, repeat back a summary of what they said and then let them know you appreciate their opinion but in this case and for X reason this is how it has to be done. As in any relationship the art of compromise is ever present. As the boss, sometimes, it will need to be your way. Most employees understand that and if you encounter one who doesn’t you will have another coaching opportunity.
I welcome your perspective on your employees challenging you. Use the comment section below to add your advice!
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