I am coming upon my 10-year anniversary at work and it has me thinking *a lot*. For me, this anniversary is the epitomy of bittersweet. This job has given me so many good intangible and tangible things, but it has also taken a lot from me. I have earned my 10-year stripe, for sure.
I am slowly but surely coming up with a list of things I have learned from my first 10 years in the corporate world, but today I got thinking about one thing in particular.
Know when and how to take a stand.
For the most part, my name is good at my company. As far as I can tell I am respected for being hard-working , reasonable, and accommodating. It is that last word that is often the bugaboo for me.
One of the reasons I have been successful (if you can call it success) is that I over-commit but still deliver. And I don’t pick fights or fight unnecessarily. In a company that seems to be full of really smart and really stubborn people, it seems like most days you can’t make any statement without someone questioning it, and questioning it aggressively. I often lament to myself how much more could get done if people stopped questioning and actually did stuff. Rarely are there perfect solutions or answers, and the more you search for one, the more time you lose.
That is the lofty reason for why I don’t like to debate too much. The other one being that I hate debate. I have strong opinions, but I don’t like verbal clashes. They make me cringe. When Hilary Rupert told me in grade school that my favorite Duran Duran member couldn’t be John Taylor because that was her favorite Duran Duran member, in my head I realized that was the stupidest logic ever – it isn’t like either of us would actually ever date John Taylor, but I switched to Roger, the drummer. It was just easier.
I think more than once I have not fought for something I should have. I truly believe to be effective you have to be kind. But am slowly learning that to be effective you have to pick your battles, and then actually fight them.
It has taken me many years, but I am finally beginning to trust voicing my opinion, not backing down. Here is what I have learned or am learning.
(list 71) Ten things I have learned about discussions at work
1. Being stubborn doesn’t prove you are smart, it just proves you are stubborn.
2. You can survive standing up to an engineer who can throw out esoteric details about code. If a technical person starts throwing out jargon and solving business and people problems with code, acknowledge their knowledge, but steer the conversation back to the real dilemma.
3. Question data. Question data even if it aligns with your personal experiences.
4. If you take a stand, make sure you think it is right because of business reasons, not personal reasons. This one sounds easy enough, but every day I see myself and others become entrenched in a position that is based on being defensive for personal-political reasons than being the best decision.
5. Don’t back down because you are tired of discussing the point. Schedule another meeting and discuss further.
6. Do back down if the time discussing a solution now exceeds the time that any of the solutions being debated would take to implement.
7. Do back down if you are wrong. Admitting that someone has a better idea (when they do) and supporting it has ALWAYS paid off for me. It is more weak to stay clinging to an idea for reasons of pride rather than recognizing a superior solution.
8. Seek input from others. As human beings we are limited to the amount of data and ideas we can contain and process. Whenever possible, choose to collaborate instead of debate.
9. Acknowledge mistakes and move on. Everybody makes them and pretending you don’t is a lie that nobody believes.
10. Don’t pretend you know something you don’t. If you don’t know something, shut up and learn about it.
11. Know when to escalate. Sometimes a decision needs to be made by someone higher up. Know when that time is – and employ escalation only when necessary.
Take all of these as just my opinion. I am not a role model for a lot of this, especially when it comes to standing firm when I should stand firm. But I am learning more about this, and with that knowledge can improve myself. Recently there were two times when I took a position that was not popular and not expedient – a rare feat for me – but hopefully proof that I am improving.