Sometimes, it’s not enough to be right.

#6 in my series of Lessons Learned blog posts
I don’t have to be right, I just have to get the right outcome.

With the new creative services organization at William & Mary, came a new boss for me. I moved from IT where I had reported to the CIO, and began reporting to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Jim Golden.

Over the past twelve months, I’ve observed my new boss in a wide range of circumstances. His leadership ability could be material for several posts, but what really stands out in my reflection is Jim Golden’s skill at leading a group to consensus. Now, if you work in higher ed, you already know just how valuable a skill that is.

Over the years, I’ve done a bit of consensus building myself. Typically, I’ve achieved consensus by presenting careful research, formulating a comprehensive plan, or clearly articulating my point of view. It’s great when you can establish agreement by convincing others that your idea or proposal is the right one.

But this year, I’ve realized that I don’t have to be right, I just have to get what I want. Here are a few tips for getting the outcome you need. None of these require being right:

  • removing the decision making authority from a group that is stalled by suggesting that the decision be made by a higher-level committee where you have more support
  • letting some time pass because often the obstructionists will lose interest and you can move ahead once they’re not paying attention
  • making the decision outside of a meeting (sometimes email exchanges work because, to be frank, people can’t keep up with the barrage of opinions)
  • asking for forgiveness rather than permission

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