Published: 07th April 2022
E-Canteen Fundas: As a leader, would you agree to disagree with your team or care to convince?
When the team disagrees with the leader, it’s the leader’s job to understand why the team is disagreeing with her views, address their issues and convince them
Sheetal and others in my team are not in favour of the changes I proposed,’ said Rahul angrily. ‘I know these changes are good for the team, but Sheetal and company don’t seem to get it. I’m thinking I’ll force it upon them one way or another and save time.’
‘Really? Force it on them?’ said Rinku. ‘But Rahul, they must be having their reasons for not agreeing with you, right? Have you heard them out?’
‘I did,’ said Rahul. ‘They have reasons. But they’re not seeing the benefits of my changes. Rinku, these changes worked for me in the past so I’m convinced they’re good. That’s why I’m in a dilemma — override their concerns in the interests of the team or pander to their doubts and lose this opportunity?’
‘Bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘Can we simply force our thoughts on the team like this when the team disagrees with us? Seems extreme to me.’
‘But,’ protested Rahul. ‘What else can we do if we don’t have consensus because our team members cannot see what’s good for them?’
‘That’s a good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘It’s a practical situation every leader faces. Can the leader do anything she wants just because she feels she is right? Or take the team’s ideas into account before implementing changes? What would you like your leader to do if you were a team member?’
‘I’d definitely like to be consulted,’ said Rinku. ‘Since the changes involve us and we are the team, our perspective must be heard.’
‘Exactly,’ said Rakesh. ‘Clearly, as a leader, if you’re proposing changes that impact the team, you must take your people into confidence and then proceed. You cannot decide unilaterally like a dictator simply because you think you know best and have the power to force it on them. In fact, I feel most wars would have been avoided if the leaders took their people into confidence and asked them what they really wanted.’
‘I think so,’ said Rinku.
‘But bhaiyya, what can one do when people do not agree with changes that are good for them?’ asked Rahul.
‘That’s where good leadership ability comes in Rahul,’ said Rakesh. ‘Ideally, you want everyone to agree on what is good for the team, right? So first, find out why your team members are disagreeing with you and understand their point of view.’
‘They don’t agree because they don’t understand, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘They have no knowledge and no vision. That is why I feel I must make those decisions for them as their leader.’
‘And that is how dictators are made,’ smiled Rakesh. ‘Thinking they know better than their ignorant team. But Rahul, instead of forcing your decisions on the team, you must make them understand the benefits of your idea and enlist them in the project. It requires you to communicate your idea in a manner that they can see why it is good for them. You must address all misgivings and doubts and leave nothing that they do not understand. That’s your primary job.’
‘I tried doing that,’ said Rahul. ‘It didn’t work.’
‘That means there’s something wrong with your idea or the way you are presenting it,’ smiled Rakesh. ‘Instead of blaming them, you have to find a way to communicate your idea well and to get them to understand. That’s what leadership is about. Be patient, consistent and clear with your messaging. It is poor leadership to shove your ideas down their throat and then act as if they wanted it. A good leader will use man-management and communication skills to get the team to understand, and only after they are convinced, takes the idea forward.’
‘But what if they’re stalling my idea because they don’t like me?’ asked Rahul. ‘Or some other mischievous reason.’
‘Again, look deep into the reason why they’re stalling,’ said Rakesh. ‘Who’s stalling you? What do they want? Where have you been like that with them? And address that issue. In the end, if your idea is really good for the team and if your team is ready for that good, the idea will prevail. Any progressive idea — be it non-violence, abolition of slavery, caste discrimination — will face resistance. But you need to introduce the idea, find champions and convince the team until it buys into it.’
‘What if despite all efforts they do not buy it?’ asked Rahul.‘Should I give up on a good idea then?’
‘Then it’s time for you to go back to the drawing board with your idea,’ said Rakesh. ‘Accept that, first, your idea may have been good but has not been explained well. Second, your idea is ahead of its time or third, perhaps your idea is not as good as you think, bad even. Maybe the team's wisdom is seeing something you missed. What worked for you at some point may not work for the team. Be flexible and graceful enough to let it go until your idea becomes clearer in your mind until its time comes. Be clear that as a leader, you are for the team; the team is not for you. Never think you’re bigger than the team.’
‘Thanks, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘I understand that I cannot hold on to my ideas and overlook the team's wisdom and readiness. I need to work on my idea and communicate it in the best way possible, so the team can decide. The team is bigger than me.’
Pro Tip: When the team disagrees with the leader, it’s the leader’s job to understand why the team is disagreeing with her views, address their issues and convince them. If they’re still not convinced, the leader must have the grace and wisdom to step back and not force the issue or be adamant. Instead, go back to the drawing board until there’s more clarity or readiness. The team is always bigger than the leader.