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22 Sep

Disagree and commit?

In the essay 'Hierarchy' is not a dirty word, I talked about power dynamics. And in yesterday's piece, I talked about the value of skin in the game. In continuation of that thought, here's another piece of advice for managers and leaders.

If there's one thing that separates leaders who are loved versus leaders who are feared and despised, it is this:

Good leaders don't take liberties they would not give to their team.

Nothing creates an unbalanced power dynamic than treating yourself as a precious and special case that's separate from your team.

"The rules don't apply to me" attitude showcased by bad leaders is largely responsible for employees building up pent up envy, resentment, and contempt.

If you wish to inspire positive behavioural change within your organisation, make sure that you're the prime example of the change you wish to see. Doing otherwise will scream hypocrisy and people are really good at catching inconsistencies between words and behaviour.

If you want to prove coming to meetings on time is possible, delivering quality work with speed is possible, being productive without burning yourself out is possible — you need to be the proof of concept yourself.

It may sometimes happen that as a manager or leader, you might disagree with some of your team members on a certain decision.

The common advice here is to "disagree and commit" especially if some decisions are hard to reconcile without conducting the experiment and finding out what happens.

But the common gripe that people usually have with this concept is that it is not reciprocated:

It's always the subordinates who have to disagree and commit and never the leaders. So, basis what I said, as a leader, you can return your team members the favour based on two factors:

1. Assigning accountability: You can transfer accountability and skin in the game to the team member who is willing to pay the price for their conviction. Because the nuance here is that leaders might be the ones who ask others to disagree and commit, but they're also usually the ones who are directly responsible for the outcomes and are standing in the line of fire. So, it makes sense for the status quo to be the case.

2. Acknowledging authority: You can also disagree and commit on their decision if you feel they're clearly the better judge for that particular decision, based on their experience and expertise.

Ultimately, the point I'm trying to make here is that the veto power one enjoys goes hand-in-hand with the amount of skin they have in the game.

Differences in the level of accountability is why "disagree and commit"  exists. And it is best exercised in the rare scenario that even after many discussions, bringing the team on the same page has proved to be impossible.

Sometimes, if someone has to bear the brunt of the outcome of someone else's decision, they might hold veto power, regardless of the other person's expertise in the matter. This is usually the case with leaders. A person who has more skin in the game cannot be expected to always behave the same way and have the same constraints someone else with little-to-no accountability has.

Having said this, leaders who act like precious princesses and reserve all the excuses for themselves and none for their team are scarcely respected in the workplace.

Skin in the game also means skin in the very thing you're asking your team to do. You can't keep yourself sparkling clean and watch from a distance while making others tread the trenches and muddy waters for you.

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