Guy Kawasaki had this to say about mavericks in big, traditional companies:
“They unleashed tough questions and critiques of their organization without losing their sense of loyalty to it. They asked the kind of questions every CEO should be asking. For example, Jane Harper asked of IBM, Why would great people want to work here?”
The thing is you don’t have to be working for Hewlett Packard or JC Penney to ask these kinds of questions.
I’ll be the first to tell you that something doesn’t have to be perfect before you run with it. Assuredly this blog post will be an example of that rationale. But you should poke holes and challenge assumptions before providing strategy for a client, or taking a product to market. Ask the tough questions. Ask the questions that most employees are scared to ask.
How many times have you forced a smile, nodded and told your boss something was a good idea when in reality, you thought it could use some tweaking, or worse yet, was absolutely ridiculous?
I don’t care what any CEO tells you. They want you to get wide-eyed, smile, and tell them their idea is brilliant. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
In most companies you have to pick your spots, but if you want to keep working for the same company your whole career putting out stuff you don’t believe in, you just keep nodding and smiling.
A few things:
Chances are your boss may be right. After all they’ve probably been at this longer than you, have more experience, more knowledge of the market, etc… I do hope this is true.
Even if this is the scenario and your boss is Brian Dunn, it still doesn’t hurt to push back when you get that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. Your inquiries have the potential to bring up points of emphasis that may need to be fleshed out. More importantly, they provide you with the opportunity to show that you’ve genuinely thought in-depth about the project/deliverable, and also to learn from the responses of those above you (or fellow team members.)
Sometimes you’ll have the fortunate pleasure of providing enough logic and evidence to convince your superiors their idea is flawed. Chances are you’re closer to the project, to the client, and you handle more day to day interactions. Don’t be scared to speak up. Eventually your superiors will see the light. Some will offer a “good job,” and virtually all will claim the idea as their own when you’re not around.
Get used to it. Face reality. Employ the Canvas Strategy.
Maintain your loyalty, but ask the tough questions and critique your organization publicly. Do it so the company can grow, so that you can grow. Concede the little battles, but think of each instance as a strategic opportunity to learn more about yourself, about what you ultimately want to do in life. You’ll acquire the necessary knowledge and experiences to win the battle that counts: Your Destination.
Do you ask the tough questions? If so, have you had success with this approach? If not, why not? If you’re a CEO, do you welcome questions? Do you ask yourself these questions?
Photo Credit: Torley
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