Lessons in Management
The Value of a Friendly Adversary
Early in my career I was privileged to know an elderly attorney in our town. He was esteemed because he was smart, he was fair (even when that wasn't easy), he was wise and he was willing to speak the truth to people who needed to hear it. These characteristics earned him offers for ownership positions in a few businesses and board positions in others. In this role, he was frequently the arbiter and tie-breaker for disputes between partners. Because he was able and willing to challenge management teams, pushing for the best decision no matter how tough or unpopular, these firms did well. He was often blunt, and by no means a docile board member, but the respect he earned was ample evidence of the real value of his counsel.
Why do I raise this? Many business leaders avoid being challenged. They may invite input, but their real interest is concurrence and ratification of their own decisions. This is unfortunate. Their subordinates – often their most capable executives - are unwilling to cross swords with the boss.
A business owner friend recently added two members to his board, each of whom, like the elderly attorney, was more than willing to probe the rationale behind decisions. The owner told me that prior to their joining the board, he could get little counterpoint from his managers. However, when they saw that reasoned probing for the good of the organization was not only accepted, but well-received, his team members came alive, challenging analysis and conclusions and producing better decisions.
What of your organization? Could you benefit from someone like the attorney and my friend's new board members who is willing to probe your decisions, explore and challenge your rationale and grapple with your real issues? If you don’t have someone in that role, you should. You and your organization will be the better for it.
If I can help you and your company by providing an objective perspective, or helping you locate an effective board member or vetting a strategic decision, give me a call.
By the way, take a look at my updated website: www.bisebusinessadvisory.com. If you have feedback, I would appreciate hearing it – even if it is challenging!
John R. Bise
Accredited Valuation Analyst