Is Compromise a bad thing?

Sometimes successful leaders just know they’re right.

We know our goals are noble, we know how we want to get there, and we know we can be successful.

And sometimes someone with whom we are working seems determined to thwart us.

Sam Rayburn, the legendary Speaker of the US House of Representatives famously stood by the mantra “If you want to get along, go along.”

He meant you have to give a little, to get something in return.

In other words, you have to compromise.

I’ll tell you, there have been times in my career where I felt that compromise was a bad thing — an abandonment of principles.

It all comes back to that nobility of cause – compromising on that would be unthinkable. Wouldn’t it?

Can you recall a time when you’ve felt that way?

Imagine it now from a different angle — what if compromise meant putting the organization first, compromise meant doing what you need to do to attain the nobel goal, compromise meant succeeding AND building a better relationship.

I was once on the leadership team of a large project that was fraught with challenges and the team was made up of some hard-nosed, combative leaders and intellectuals. Yes, me, and others too!

We all believed we were going to save the cause and come through for the win. We had a hard time compromising.

Our individual need to succeed sometimes prevented each of us from seeing what others saw, from understanding what worried them, from examining things from their point of view.

It seems often in the modern workplace colleagues talk at each other, rather than with each other. We explain our point of view, rather than seeking to hear others.

Are there times where this happens in your organization?

Through my experiences of coaching some amazing leaders, and being coached myself, I have discovered other ways. Consider trying an approach with colleagues that demonstrates a genuine interest in understanding their concerns.  An effective way of doing this is by asking…

  • Tell me about _________.
  • Why do you feel that way?
  • Help me understand the issue more clearly…
  • What concerns you?
  • How could we do this better?

Some of my clients have reported things like “I didn’t realize her problem was with something else entirely, we were able to meet both our needs and still get things done” and “the more I asked him questions, the more the tension disappeared.

I could actually see him become more relaxed, less combative and more willing to work with me.”

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