Disagree and commit

November 2020

Someone once told me that as a member of the executive team at a growing technology startup, whenever there is a Big Decision that must be made, you have three choices:

  1. Agree and commit
  2. Disagree and commit
  3. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out

Obviously this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I've found it hugely clarifying over the course of my career.

Agree and commit

This is the happy path. Healthy debate has occurred, and the decision was made according to the path you preferred. You're on easy street and immediately leap into next steps.

Disagree and commit

This is hard. You argued your perspective. You used your credibility and the best of your persuasive abilities. You brought data to the discussion that backs up your argument. You provided lots of evidence. And the team went in a different direction.

You're at a critical juncture. How you conduct yourself and move forward will speak volumes about your leadership style. Now is the moment when you will either:

  1. Proliferate politics and frustrate your team by remaining ambiguous about your team's goals, inhibit progress, throw up roadblocks to the team's momentum, or
  2. Foster a focused team rallying behind a clear direction.

Obviously if this happens frequently enough, you may just need to part ways. But I've found for the vast majority of Big Decisions, disagree and commit is the right path. You deepen your professional relationships, build empathy and respect for other points of view, coach or assist your direct reports (and learn from them) on this process, and ultimately learn a ton about yourself and your values.