Perfect Discord

Posted  | 0 Comment(s)  |  by Kris Girrell

Last week I gave a lecture at the Sloan Business School of MIT on the topic of rapid assimilation into a leadership or management position. Throughout the talk I fielded questions on disharmony and disagreements – the thought being that if one has done a good job selecting and interviewing, there should be a lowered probability of problems. At one point I even asked the audience how many people had the experience of being hired for a job and finding out after the fact that either the job had radically changed or that there were some deep dark, and untold secrets that had not been revealed during the interviewing process. Nearly all the hands went up.

Ignoring the irrational expectation that a company should reveal its warts prior to your becoming an insider, the really big problem that lies at the base of this discussion is a belief that a perfect world is one in which all live in harmony. As far as I can tell, that belief is the single most destructive belief in the world. It certainly has been the source of more marital problems than any other belief! It just isn’t how things are. We are each unique in our being and in our understanding of our world view. Just as no two fingerprints are the same, no two personalities are the same. That is the fun part of life. I wouldn’t want to marry someone just like me (How boring is that?) and it would almost feel like talking to myself were I to work with someone just like me.

Believing that we should have no disagreements also stifles creativity. Nothing really creative can come from agreeing with each other. But in disagreeing – and doing so vehemently – we are forced to find a new solution. The more invested we are in the two poles of a disagreement, the greater our creativity has to be. Our inability to engage in disagreements is further exacerbated by our not knowing how to disagree, debate, and find solutions without taking things personally. Our society – the ME society – has taught us that everything is about us. “If you like my clothes, you must like me” translates into “If you don’t like my ideas, you must hate me.” Likewise, thinking that everyone should agree with us is just another form of personalizing things.  Life is not about you – your life is not about you. Life is to be lived in  relationship with others. And relationship is all about working out the differences.

I don’t know if my audience heard the message, but the answer to “What if you and your boss disagree?” and “What if the mentor you have is at odds with the person you report to?” was, and still is, forever, “Work it out!” That is the stuff of life, and that kind of natural discord is just perfect!

Kris Girrell
Career Partners International

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