Decision Making Based On a True Story
A highly intelligent Vice President of a well-known Fortune 500 company had a reputation of being dismissive to his peers. He wasn’t looking for a compromise.
This is actually not an uncommon scenario. Executives climb the ladder by being subject matter experts. They are recognized for their expertise in the form of multiple promotions, often in short order.
This particular executive was frustrated that others didn’t understand he had already looked at the problem from multiple angles and that there really was no better solution!
One peer was especially frustrating to him because she was adamant that the company had to ask the customer directly rather than assuming the ‘correct’ solution. To the VP, asking customers seemed reasonable except that the innovation was so groundbreaking that customers wouldn’t be able to imagine its impact on them. Therefore, asking the customer might lead to unsatisfactory answers.
One day he brought the dilemma to his coaching conversations. The VP recognized that he had a limited — and limiting — view of what a win/win scenario might be. In his mind, a win/win was equal to a compromise. No one would be happy with a compromise.
So as his coach I asked:
“What is the possibility of a win/win solution being greater than the sum of its parts? What if 1 + 1 = 3?”
The VP had never considered this possibility. In his mind there were winners and losers. Win/wins were unsatisfactory compromises.
The coaching conversation opened the VP’s eyes to the possibility of a different framework, a framework where no one person had to have all of the answers or had to have the right solution. Together the parties would co-create a solution none of the individual parties could have come up with on their own. This approach required a shift in thinking. Each party had to be open to not having the ‘right’ answer or all of the answers.
I asked the VP to write down actionable steps to test and implement his new thinking. Here is what he came up with (condensed for confidentiality and clarity).
To achieve greater win/win:
- Get alignment on purpose
- Be curious
- Accept and share vulnerability that you may not know the best path
- Explore risks associated with possible paths
- Share ideas instead of solutions
What is the possibility that the VP changed his perception of being dismissive with this approach?