I know what you are thinking.

“That’s a stupid title. This whole year has been uncomfortable. I don’t have to do anything at all. Just wake up tomorrow. Ta-Da! Uncomfortable.”

True … and false.

I’ve had several experiences recently in our Acumen peer advisory teams where members have become frustrated by the lack of agreement, approval, and rubber-stamping of a challenge they put on the table for the team to chew on.

In one part of our monthly council meeting, we discuss situations, challenges, and opportunities that are a high priority in member businesses. Often, a particular CEO or owner knows what he wants to do and is looking to confirm that plan. Sometimes, they get it. Most times, they don’t. Haven’t we all been there? Just agree with me so I can move forward. If you don’t, it gets hard.

These leaders get pushback, conflict, different opinions, challenges to their plans, strategy, and skills. When they want confirmation, insert frustration, bias, and a pity party.

It’s wonderful.

This year sharpened the saw, yet I’m starting to see the familiar cadence kick in which can be dangerous.

At your company, you most likely have your team and employees’ adoration, bobble head agreement on many issues, lack of conflict, and an easiness that your company moves. Left unchecked, this wavy gravy is dangerous. You get comfortable. Your team is comfortable, and the sharpness of your company saw starts to dull.

How will you remain uncomfortable as a leader, owner, and decider?

How do you make sure that healthy conflict is a part of your daily, weekly, and monthly regimen both inside and outside your company?

  1. Get (healthy) conflicted

What do your internal meetings look like? Is there anywhere on the agenda that invites healthy conflict? Do you or someone on your team manage that well? If you are having rubber stamp meetings, then look at changing the meeting structure or agenda to create more conflict through discussion.

Had the same old team for many years? Bring in someone new to the meeting who doesn’t know how it has always been done. As we head into planning season, you have the opportunity to create healthy internal conflict and disagreement to make your company and people better.

Tip: Remember Steven Covey’s “Habit” Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Healthy conflict requires understanding and discussion, not just pushing your agenda. Opinions and recommendations need data and facts.

  1. Participate in the meeting

Many owners and CEOs get caught in the facilitator trap. Don’t do that. How can you be a part of the discussion if you are leading it? I had one owner ask, “How can I control the meeting if I don’t lead it?” Exactly. You shouldn’t control the meeting. Where is the healthy conflict in that? Someone else on your team (for weekly/monthly meetings) or an outside facilitator for planning sessions will move your company forward faster and in new ways when you don’t control the agenda, discussion, ideas, and outcomes. Yes, you are still the decider, AND you get to hear and see all the real situations, issues, and challenges.

  1. Get outside your four walls

Acumen provides a place where CEOs and owners can participate together, tackling issues and opportunities with a culture of truth, challenge, transparency, competence, and fun.  The shared stature and values create a challenging environment ripe for sharpening the saw and furthering your company mission.

Groups of adoration, agreement, no conflict, and easiness can become dangerous. Get conflicted, don’t lead the meeting, and find places where you get challenged to remain uncomfortable.

Dan Cooper
Post by Dan Cooper
December 11, 2020
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free. Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.