Fight for What Matters
Episode #4 of the course How to lead in tough times by Frank McKinley
One of the biggest battles tough leaders face is choosing what to fight for.
Some things aren’t worth it. Ask yourself before you argue:
• What will this cost me?
• What will it cost the other person?
• Will it make a difference if I do nothing?
Arguments can make people feel angry, defensive, and guilty. If you spend the energy, make sure everyone moves forward.
Of course, there is no guarantee they will.
In this lesson, you’ll learn how to argue effectively so you can raise the odds of a good outcome.
First, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Count to ten if you’re angry. If you’re afraid, count from five to one and engage. You’ve already decided to argue. Do it with all the control you can muster. Once you press past the first five or ten seconds, every moment forward gets easier.
Second, remember that no relationship is free from conflict. Eventually, you’ll disagree. You’ll have to correct someone. You might have to ask for something from someone who intimidates you. If you want to keep the sparks from growing into a forest fire, act when your gut tells you to.
Waiting only makes fear, procrastination, and your problem grow.
Third, respect the other person. Don’t make an argument personal. Stick to the issues. You’re fighting to solve a problem, not assault someone.
When you’re done, find something positive to end on. While you can’t take the negative away entirely, you can frame it in hope.
Fourth, be clear. Explain your position as simply as you can. Don’t assume they understand. Ask. Also, make sure you understand their position, too.
Decide what outcome you expect before you say a word. If there’s room for flexibility, budget for it. Define what’s not negotiable as well.
Fifth, know what you’re talking about. The other person may know more than you. But if they say something that doesn’t sound true, ask them to prove it.
Sixth, be humble. You might find out you were wrong and the other person was right. Admit you’re wrong and people will respect you. Sometimes the solution looks different than you planned, so be flexible.
Seventh, be brief. Arguments can feel as painful as having your chest cut open without anesthesia. Carry on only as long as it takes to solve your problem. If the issue is unpleasant, you’re better off to leave out the sugar and just get it over with.
Eighth, dismissal. Sometimes you can’t reach a compromise. If you’ve given someone several chances to cooperate, work for the team, or reform bad behavior—and they’ve failed to do their part—say goodbye. Better to let someone go than let them keep spreading poison.
Arguments are hard. Avoid them when you can. Be ready when you must. Your team is depending on you to set the standard, and sometimes you have to fight to keep it.
Now It’s Your Turn
You can use these techniques to confront people. Confrontation can turn into an argument or head it off.
What’s one hard conversation you need to have with someone? How can you use the strategies you just learned to quickly turn things for the better?
Think it through. Then schedule it. Keep it brief and to the point. Solve a problem and everyone benefits.
Confront when you must and you won’t need to argue much.
Next time we’ll learn the difference between working hard and doing hard work. Until then, lead well!
Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual by Jocko Willink
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