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Later this year, I am conducting a webinar on the art of dispute as a part of the Excellence in Leadership series. If you have ever been in a situation where you knew that your opponent was wrong but couldn’t effectively argue his point of view, you know why this is a highly valuable skill. This morning, I was jotting down some most salient points for this session and thought that I should share one with you today.
We make decisions on a daily basis, many times a day: how to get to Memphis, what to have for dinner, what to wear, which espresso maker to buy and so on. Similarly in a business settings, people make operating and investment decisions: which project to select, how to enter a new market, who to hire, and so on. Why doing so, in life and in business, decisions are influenced by recommenders – friends, family, experts, employees, superiors, vendors, consultants, and others.
Although not a debate per se, a recommendation is similar to it in that the other party offers an argument to support their point of view. A decision maker listens to recommendations and makes a decision.
Here is my point. Never ever accept a recommendation or an argument that you don’t understand.
I see a lot of people in a lot of organizations all charged with making decisions. It’s a commonplace occurence that they make decisions to the tune of millions of dollars based on recommendations they don’t understand: a financial workup, results of a marketing survey, sales projections, etc. It only so happens that the financial workup contains errors, the methodology behind the marketing survey is flawed and the sales projections are based on best case scenario assumptions.
The resulting decision cannot possibly be sound. The result: wasted resources, lost time, overlooked opportunities.
I think the following is in order when listening to what recommenders have to say:
- if you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation. It is not a weakness but a sign of a confident decision maker
- probe and examine the recommender’s data and assumptions carefully
- understand the recommender’s interests. What do they stand to gain from your following their recommendation? Does it influence their recommendation?
- in cases where you are not in a position to validate an argument (e.g. a financial cost-benefit analysis), ask an authority on the subject to do it for you.
- never let yourself to be forced into the thinking that there is only one alternative to be considered
- think critically and ask critical questions.
In my observation, accepting the argument that is not well understood is even more of a problem in a group setting, such as a meeting. There is an implicit pressure to agree and no one want to look ignorant by asking for an explanation. (Since everyone else is quiet, they MUST understand it. I don’t want to look stupid, so I will pretend that I do too.)
Don’t let this to happen to you. Ask questions, make the right decisions, and thrive!
Just 8 days left to take advantage of the early bird discount!
- Five hourly teleconferences and webinars on the key leadership competencies. Five hours of highly valuable content which you can start applying immediately.
- Prep work emailed to you before each session to maximize learning.
- Follow up information and suggested reading emailed after each session.
- Download of a session, so that if the circumstances don’t allow you to participate in the live event, you will be able to take it up at your leisure. Your investment is therefore protected.
All sessions commence at 11:30am Eastern on a second Tuesday of the month. The schedule is as follows:
September 8 – Practical Strategy. Learn how to chart your course, whether you are in charge of 2 people or 20,000, in a practical, no nonsense way that informs your decisions immediately. You will be able to transform uncertainty into clear, actionable steps and milestones, and commitment.
- What is strategy, sans buzzwords
- How to assess your present position objectively
- How to create common vision, goals and milestones, which are endorsed (“bought into”) by all concerned
- How to execute a successful strategy.
October 13 – Financial Skills for non-Financial Managers. The essense of financial management delivered in an intensive format. You will learn to talk to CFOs in the language they will understand.
- Practical primer in financial accounting
- How to read financial statements
- Understanding financing, investing and operating decisions
November 10 – Cost-Benefit Analysis. Learn the state of the art methods of financial analysis in just one hour. Plus, a comprehensive review of non-economic factors that often get forgotten. You will learn how to make or recommend sound investment and operating decisions, and validate proposals and other documents from vendors and consultants.
- Tools and inputs needed for analysis
- Typical weaknesses – learn why 9 out of 10 analyses can be questioned.
- Contemporary methods, their strengths and weaknesses: payback, IRR, NPV, and Real Options.
December 8 – Business Cases and Decision Making. Advocate and make winning decisions, blending the knowledge of strategy, finance, behavioral economics and psychology.
- How to use a proven framework, key success factors and typical mistakes
- How to use what you know about the audience: attention to detail, agenda, priorities, preferences, style, etc
- How to use principles of behavioral economics to your advantage, whether you are on the giving or the receiving end.
January 12 – Practical Change Management. This content is well beyond the usual project management curriculum. We will talk about the key success factors in change management, why 2/3 of all change efforts fail and how to ensure yours is a clear win.
- How to ensure broad support
- How to make others do what you want them to do
- How to measure progress and refine the approach.