Chair’s Corner: Build Your Future

By Michele Curry, Commerce Bank, Women’s Network Chair

Have you ever been in a meeting and had thoughts that were opposing or different than the group but didn’t speak up as to not rock the boat? Or have you been on a project that received critical feedback that caught you off guard?

Unsurprisingly, these concepts are two pieces of the same puzzle.

Giving Pushback

I’ll start by addressing your ability to push back in a team setting. One way you can be BOLD is if you are a part of a meeting or project and hear something that doesn’t sit right with you…say something! Most of us choose to be silent because we don’t want to go against the group, or we don’t want the team to think their ideas are bad in any way—we just have constructive criticism that could make the ideas better. I want to encourage you in the month of February to take the opportunity to push back. There is no harm in raising questions, and perhaps you’re saying something that’s on the minds of others as well.

I was in a meeting recently where someone was bold enough to say, “I don’t really agree with you, and here’s why…” By opening that door, we as a group were able to think more creatively instead of in the singular direction we were initially heading. We were able to make meaningful tweaks to the plan by taking into consideration the perspective of things we wouldn’t have thought about if there wasn’t pushback during the discussions.

Asking for Pushback

Whether you’re in a leadership position or a part of a team, the best thing you can do is have “productive paranoia”, which is a term used in Jim Collins’ book Great by Choice. The idea is if you are in a project, it’s best to think of situations that could go wrong. It doesn’t mean you have a ‘doomsday’ point of view about life. Instead, it’s encouraging you to think about pitfalls in advance so later down the line you aren’t caught off guard by something you didn’t take into consideration as a ‘worst case scenario’ and don’t have a plan for it.

Another term you can use when seeking proactive pushback is called “Red Teaming”. Even if everyone in your group is in agreement with how to proceed with a project, it’s good to take a devil’s advocate position to make sure you aren’t overlooking anything. You as a leader or peer can say, “Let’s Red Team this idea”, meaning “let’s think of all the things that could go wrong, let’s think of anything our critics would say, and address those issues. What would we do if…[fill in the blank].” That way, when you get to the final product or finish line of where you’re going, you will have thought from every single angle and make adjustments accordingly.

In Conclusion

Pushback is not bad…IT’S GOOD! You create something so much more beneficial at the end of the day! So whether it’s you taking the step to be BOLD and push back, or whether you ask for pushback from your team in advance, I recommend pushing back every chance you get.

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