It was a Sunday morning 2013. I was in Orlando, FL for the National Automobile Dealer’s Association conference. It is customary every year to have a Sunday service during the convention and each year there was an inspirational message delivered to a pretty sizable audience.
I was in that audience the day Mark Kelly NASA Astronaut and husband to Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords delivered his inspirational message. The speech was incredibly moving and filled with incredible amounts of insight. Gabby’s perseverance toward recovery alone is an incredible story. Oddly enough, want to know the one thing I remember from his speech?
“None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us”
Yes, a NASA Astronaut shared this simple quote as an axiom to live by. Why? Because in a room of arguably the smartest people on the planet NASA team members could all agree to make a horrible decision. Here is a little more context of the quote,
“A well-meaning team of people can sometimes make horrible decisions that no single individual would make. Groupthink, and an unwillingness to disagree with the bosses, was too often a problem at NASA… None of us is as dumb as all of us.”
What can we learn from this as leaders of teams and companies?
I had a wonderful client a few years ago in Eastern Pennsylvania. I’ll leave his name to be anonymous, but I can tell you he was a Georgetown grad and a very sharp business man. I learned early on about his unique management style and engagement with his team and myself. I admire him and will never forget what he taught me about leadership.
“Challenge my thinking,” he used to say in our meetings.
“Help me poke holes in my ideas so that we may come to a better solution.”
I loved it. Notice the careful wording he would use. Challenge my thinking, instead of, I don’t agree with you. Help me poke holes in my idea..
I’ve met many leaders. Very few have the confidence in their teams to openly warrant disagreement and discussion. Many talk about it as the “right thing to do” but few deliver because their teams are either afraid or leader won’t listen to them either way. These are not strong team.s
The Difference Between Disagreement and Alignment
Disagreement can be healthy so long as the team remains focused on the goal at hand and nothing gets personal. It is healthy to disagree. But don’t just stop at disagreement. The next step, or bookend to the conversation is alignment.
Michael Hyatt said in a great blog post to disagree but always align. What terrific advice. Make your argument, state your case, but there comes to a point where decisions need to be made and teams need to align again when the leader does make a decision. This will send all team members in a positive direction with one single focus (goal) in mind of achieving.
Never forget, “None of Us, is as Dumb, as All of Us!”
ACTION ITEM: This action item is two-fold based on who you may be as a reader. If you are a leader, ask for those around you to challenge what you’re doing. Challenge the “same old same old” way of doing things. Beg your team to push back but remain solutions focused in your pursuit of getting better.
If you’re the team member, offer up suggestions to your boss. Deliver them in box wrapped in positive outcomes and solutions to make the team or business better. If your boss won’t allow it. Update your resume and run like hell.