How to Make the Best Business Decisions

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Scenario: "Dude, I don't want to argue with my team members because it'll hurt their feelings. Ahh!" Earlier, we wrote about why a healthy debate uncovers the best decisions and answers to serve your company, your employees, and your clients. In this spankin' fresh article, we'll focus on how to incorporate healthy conflict into your business -- and make the best possible business decisions.

How to Not Debate with Somebody

It's the usual scenario between a manager trying to improve an employee's work:

  1. Manager Billy: "I don't like how you constructed that widget. Do it better!"
  2. Christie: "Umm....okay."
  3. Christie's inner-voice: "Billy's a ^@!$ who's trying to sabotage me."
  4. Manager Billy: "Be careful next time. Thanks."
  5. Christie's inner voice: "That mutha $@!*%$^."
  6. Christie continues doing what she's been doing.

Instead of engaging your employees in a healthy conflict, they put their guards up if you do it incorrectly. They'll start wondering about your ulterior motives. (And: Even if you don't, they'll invent something.) When you start incorporating conflict into your business wrongly, your employees start thinking:

  • "He hates me. He's trying fire me!"
  • "He can't do any better!"
  • "This dude is just trying to look good in front of his boss."
  • "He's just some power-hungry chump."
  • "He's getting his revenge for his nerdy upbringing."

Conflict is good, yes; but importantly, you need to learn how to do it properly -- if you want to influence your team.

3 Steps to Arguing Effectively, and Make the Best Business Decisions

Use the Trizoko 3:

  1. Focus on the ultimate goal.

    You're arguing for one reason: To seek the best possible solution to whatever you're doing -- whether that's a client project, a marketing approach, an employee applicant, or whatever else. Everything else takes a second seat to the ultimate goal. This keeps you fully focused in seeking the best possible answer with your team. Our Tip: When you're debating with your team, let them know why you're doing it (i.e. the ultimate goal). In a study conducted at a Harvard Library, simply using the word "because" dramatically helped a person get what he wanted (94% vs. 60%). So, if you want your team to debate vigorously for the best solution, start using "because". That is:
    • "I want to debate this vigorously because we're seeking the best possible solution for our Client Sammy."
    • "I want both of us to fight for our best applicant because we're trying to build the most kick-ass team."
    • "I want to discuss this openly because we need to find the best way to manage our employees."
  2. Trash personal agendas.

    Facts, facts, facts, facts, and more facts. When you stick to the facts of a situation, you leave your emotions and personal agendas at the door. (e.g. "Health insurance plans boost employee morale as shown in this study: _____" vs. "Health insurance sucks. We'll waste our money. We don't need it.") Stanford's Business Professor Kathleen M. Eisenhardt studied the detrimental effects of avoiding facts when debating:
    In the absence of good data, executives waste time in pointless debate over opinions. Some resort to self-aggrandizement and ill-formed guesses about how the world might be. People -- and not issues -- become the focus of disagreement. The result is interpersonal conflict.
    Often, when we humans argue, it's because we either:
    1. want to keep our pride intact,
    2. are belligerent,
    3. want to feel superior, or have the ever-popular:
    4. "I'm-always-right-so-you're-wrong" mindset.

    Sure, we all have personal agendas. It's been ingrained in us since childbirth when our moms, dads, uncles, grandmothers told us we were the most special person, ever -- so we've felt superior ever since. Yet, great business leaders trash personal agendas for the sake of the ultimate goal.
    • Sam Walton did it by sharing equity in his tiny Five and Dime store that drove his managers to kick ass for his customers.
    • William Hewlett and David Packard did it with their open management style.
    • Howard Schultz did it by offering health plans to his early employees.
    • We could describe countless examples.

    Do what's best for the company. Do what's best for the customer. Then, and only then, you'll start getting the best for you. You'll see a pretty cool trickling effect.
  3. Debate vigorously.

    Seek the ultimate goal. Trash personal agendas. Cool, but what ultimately gets you the best possible answers? Debating vigorously. Peep this:
    1. Bob and Jane argue about colors on a client project.
    2. Bob really feels the color blue sucks.
    3. Jane thinks the color red sucks.
    4. They compromise: They get purple.

    If you avoid debating vigorously, you get answers that try to mesh two differing opinions -- that end up sucking, anyway. You don't want consensus. You want the best possible answer, which you rarely get when you try to seek a consensus. Jim Collins's six-year study on great Fortune 500 companies described those companies making their best decisions through fierce debates:
    What we found in companies that make good decisions is the debate is real. When Colman Mockler at Gillette is trying to decide whether to go with cheaper, disposable plastic razors or more expensive ones, he asks marvelous questions. He's Socratic. He pushes people to defend their points of view. He lets the debate rage.

    What Great Companies Do

    And this is, by the way, not an isolated case. We found this process in all the companies we studied, when they made a leap to greatness. The debate is real. It is real, violent debate in search of understanding. If you're seeking harmony, you know something's wrong with your business.

Phew. Use the spankin' template to get you on your fabulous way:

"We have to debate about what works best because that helps us uncover the best answers to serve Client Sammy."


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Posted on October 17

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