LEADERSHIP:

Know what fights to pick and how to fight them constructively 

Fighting for what you believe in at work and what your team needs are a critical parts of leadership. The problem is that if you to do it too much then you are a real pain to work with but if you don’t do it enough then you aren’t an effective leader. In this episode, we will look at how to find a balance in how often you have fights, why they are important and how to make fighting constructive instead of destructive for you and your career.


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We keep talking about leadership because it is a complicated topic. Its more than just knowing the right things to do – its actually doing it and finding the right ways for you to bring them to life. One of the places where I see too many leaders go wrong are knowing what fights to pick or what hills to die on. There is a fine line between being a leader and being a dictator or an asshole.

A balancing act

As with a lot of things we talk about – its a balancing act. Fighting can be constructive or destructive for you and your career.

If you never take on a fight then you never change anything and that makes you an ineffective leader. Leadership and success are constantly evolving concepts so you have to be willing to fight for the changes that are going to keep you and your teams in a position to be successful.

But if all you do it take on battles then you burn yourself out and piss off everyone around you. You need the support of your partners, clients and those around you to change things.

And you need to do it all with the right tone because the right message with the wrong delivery comes out wrong.

Fighting is important

While it is a tough balancing act to get right, I go think that standing up for yourself and fighting for what you and your team needs are critical to your leadership and your sanity.

As a leader, your team has to know that you will fight for them. You have to walk your talk. It is easy to be a leader when things are easy. Its when things are hard that people see what type of leader you really are.

I’ve found it is also important on a personal level because I can not stay happy or sane in a broken system or a situation where I feel I can not excel. I know that if I do not fight and if I do not work to change things then my inspiration will quickly turn to frustration.

How to fight constructively

We all can easily think of a lot of examples of how fighting at work has been bad for someone’s career, the team or everyone around them.

Understand your authority
Assess whether you have the reputation and authority to succeed.

Ask yourself how important the issue is to you and the organization
There are costs to going against the grain so you need to be sure it’s worth it.

Plan ahead
how are you going to describe the problem and draw the listener into helping solve it.

Control your emotions
Ask yourself whether you will be able to control your emotions when discussing the issue.

Be sure you have a solution
You shouldn’t point out a problem without also having a constructive solution — or a plan for developing one.

Test the waters
Change initiatives are notoriously difficult, so test your idea before diving in.

Don’t let things fester
Bring up disagreements as soon as you know they’re going to be a problem.

Enlist supporters
Shopping your solution around serves another purpose — it builds early support.

Fight Constructively
You shouldn’t fight any battle if you can’t do so constructively. If your goal is to hurt or just express your anger, you’re fighting for the wrong reasons. Every single argument you have ought to aim to improve an undesirable situation.

Make sure there is grey area
Too many people make their fights about being right or wrong which is black and white. There can be no negotiating when it is like this and they will either totally agree to instantly fight you.

Be prepared for a response from the other person
Think about whether you can deal with any criticisms that may be fired back at you.

The real solution

The biggest thing I have seen over the years is that the fight happens, things get better but the fight didn’t solve the underlying problem so in a few weeks or months the same problems comes up again. No one ever seems to stop to understand why this keeps happening. Its because neither side is getting to the real problem which is something we have talked about before. You need to make sure that the outcome of any fight will change thinking not behavior or the problem will just come back.

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