obligation to dissent

When I owned my social media company, I brought in a partner who had worked for McKinsey, a high-end, global strategy and consulting company.  This person is a brilliant strategist and I learned a lot from him.  He introduced me to the McKinsey value “an obligation to dissent.”

Today, when I do my sessions with leadership teams, I have adopted this phrase.  As we start the session, I like to go around the room to help focus on our day together and outline their expectations.  This does few things: it helps the individuals and teams shake off the day, embrace a victory or two, and helps them to begin to focus on the work we will be diving into. As the facilitator, herding cats and managing expectations are two of my main jobs.

When the conversation comes around to me, I also celebrate a victory or two and let them know my expectations for the day. These expectations are the same every time and I have come to realize that when they are fully embraced, they become the cornerstone to truly healthy companies. When sharing my expectations, I ask for the team to be open and honest. They need to realize that they don’t just have the right to express their opinion, they have an obligation to dissent. I go on to explain the need for the team to embrace the idea that truly healthy means we are all obligated to stand up and express what we are thinking for the greater good of the organization. This is most critical when you may feel like you are the only one, or it is a different opinion then a dominate personality in the room.  This isn’t to say it is done with malicious intent or aggression, quite the opposite. When done correctly it is executed with the ultimate compassion and concern.

This is one of my biggest, untold at the time, objectives.  My goal is to encourage, facilitate, and at times drag the truth out of people. Sometimes, I must referee an environment where this obligation to dissent can grow.  It is my passionate belief that when done correctly, and with the right people in the right seats, magic happens. This is where creativity, problem solving, innovation, and profitability live. It is all within us and it is our obligation to dissent.

Is it time for your leadership team to dissent? Do you need someone to referee that environment for you? I’m always here to help, no expectations or obligation. Reach out anytime.

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