Just Because Someone Disagrees With You, That Doesn’t Mean They Are Wrong

We have all had good and bad bosses; effective and ineffective bosses; bosses who inspire and bosses who drive you to despair.

In my career, I have found that there are valuable lessons to be learned from both good and bad bosses. From many of my good bosses, I have learned lessons on how to motivate and value people and how to improve processes or do things better. From some of my “less-than-good” bosses, I have learned by observing what not to do or how not to manage.

I am going to stay focused on the positive and share some of the helpful lessons I learned from some of my bosses who were effective and good (sometimes great) bosses.

Just Because Someone Disagrees With You, That Doesn’t Mean They Are Wrong:

Managing direct employees in many ways is easier than managing third-party channel members. I was trying to implement some new programs with our sales channel and was having a difficult time getting agreement on the programs I was proposing.

I had counsel from some of my co-workers to be more aggressive and drive the new programs through regardless of the channel objections. I had an equal amount of counsel from other co-workers to take it slower and just let things evolve over time.

The challenge I had was that we needed to make some fairly dramatic changes to how we would go to market as our sales, profits and market shares were declining and I did not have an unlimited amount of time to put some significant changes in place.

I was in a business review with my boss and was complaining to him about the resistance I was receiving from some of our channel partners. I felt the resistance was turning personal and some of the channel members used the opportunity to attack, not just our policies, but me personally.

My boss, an intelligent, experienced and insightful manager said to me, “Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean they are wrong.” My initial reaction was to feel like he was not supporting me. However, as I thought about his words later that evening, I realized that in the discussions with our channel members, I was doing most of the talking. I was doing all I could to get them to see life from my vantage point and, once they understood what I was up against, they would, of course, come around to my way of thinking.

I learned that, even in an adversarial business discussion, I should listen to the genuine concerns of the other party, before I laid out my position. It might be possible that by listening and understanding, I could learn to look at a business issue from a different perspective and make changes to how we could find a mutually-beneficial solution or implementation plan. This did not absolve me from the responsibility to ultimately make a decision but did allow for better understanding on the part of both parties.

Sometimes, I would completely change how we would accomplish our business goals. However, in the end, I would also frequently make decisions that some of our channel partners disagreed with. But by taking time to seriously consider their concerns, recognizing that they had valid business reasons for their positions, most of the time we were at least able to move forward with mutual respect and commitment to the business.

Just because someone disagrees with you, that doesn’t mean they are wrong.

– Bob Williams

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