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Argue, Then Support

Argue, Then Support


Hello and good day!

"Brian, you have no idea what you are talking about," said Juan to my brother Brian. Juan was our most outspoken employee. He had a strong will, a sharp wit, and was one of the most stubborn people you'll ever meet.

Brian had called a team meeting to discuss construction plans for our new cacao processing facility, to be built in a defunct rice mill.

"The problem," said Juan, "is that you've never built in this kind of hot weather using the type of materials we have available. You are thinking of the way Gringos build, not how we build here." The way he said it made his statement sound definitive. But it wasn't definitive at all.

Half the people in the room had as much experience as Juan in local construction and they saw the matter differently. Several were undecided and a few agreed with Juan.

"It's not only me Juan. Most of the people here see it my way. Actually, it's not even my way. I gathered a bunch of opinions and decided on the one that seems to make the most sense," said Brian.

"You all agree with him?" asked Juan. He knew exactly which people agreed with Brian and gave them an intense stare. Juan was so smart and well-spoken that these people became intimidated and weren't willing to answer.

He paced around the empty room in the center of the abandoned rice mill. The floor was dirt. The walls were made of dilapidated adobe brick.   There was a pile of scrap lumber against the back wall next to rusty broken-down tractors. The roof was a collection of worn aluminum sheeting supported by rotting wooden beams.

"Let me explain point by point why you all are dead wrong," said Juan. With that, he began to hold court, systematically attempting to demolish Brian's plans. If Juan had been born in the United States, he would have been captain of the debate team at Harvard. After graduation, he would have gone on to intern at the most prestigious law firm in Manhattan. A decade later, he would have been widely recognized as the most cunning and vicious trial attorney in the country.

Instead, he was born in the small town of Cigarro de Oro in the district of Huarango in northern Peru.

As such, Brian was the one who had to confront him.

"And that is why we must reconsider this entire project. If we don't, it is sure to be a failure. It is impossible to disagree," said Juan, offering his closing remarks.

Silence overtook the room. Juan stood there with his arms crossed over his broad chest. He gave Brian a confident challenging smile.

"Anybody want to say anything?" asked Brian.

Nobody volunteered.

"You did a good job scaring everybody Juan," said Brian. He looked Juan straight in the eyes.

"What do you mean I scared everybody? They don't talk because they know I'm right and they have no basis for arguing," said Juan.

"No, they don't know that you're right. They know you're smart and strong. That's not the same as being right. Nobody wants to challenge you because they think you'll make them look stupid," said Brian.

"So, you think I'm a bully?" said Juan.

"Yeah, I do," said Brian.

This angered Juan and hurt his pride. He puffed out his chest and sped towards Brian, ready to fight. Brian planted his feet in the ground and put up his fists. If this is what it had to be, so be it. Brian was ready. Thankfully, the team jumped in and broke up the squabble. No punches were thrown.

"Listen to me Juan. You're forgetting one very important fact," said Brian. He was talking over a crowd of men that were standing between he and Juan.

"What fact gringo!" shouted Juan. He was very upset.

"I'm the boss here Juan! I am! Not you! I decide! If you don't like it, get out!" shouted Brian.

Juan stood there, breathing heavy, held back by several men. He looked around at the faces of his team members. He looked at Brian. The tension left his body, and he took several steps back away from the crowd.

He pointed at Brian with his index finger. "Do you promise me that you talked to everybody?" asked Juan.

"I promise," said Brian.

"He talked to all of you?" Juan asked the group. They nodded yes. Brian had spoken with each of them.

"I don't like this plan at all. I am afraid that we will fail. A lot of people depend on the success of this project and if it fails, we will disappoint many people," said Juan.

"We need you, Juan. We need you to help us make it a success. But I am the boss here. I decide. You've told me your thoughts many times now. I understand your point of view. I don't agree with it. That doesn't mean we don't need you though," said Brian.

Juan looked at Brian and thought it through. "Ok Brian. I will stay. I'm sorry for the outburst," said Juan.

"I'm sorry too. Let's get to work," said Brian.

For several years after that, Juan was one of our most loyal and hardest working employees. He never stopped arguing vigorously. Sometimes he carried the day and changed Brian's mind. Sometimes he didn't.

But no matter what, after the decision was made, he supported Brian and the team. He never continued causing dissention once the matter was decided.

Several books on leadership describe this concept. It is a concept that would do us all well to remember. Winning teams rally together.

Even if a player doesn't agree with the coach, or a key employee doesn't agree with the boss, it doesn't make sense to persist in protest once the decision has been made. You argue your heart out when the time for arguing is at hand. You represent your case with all the passion, conviction, and logic you can muster.

But once the decision is made, it is better to execute to the best of your ability according to the decided plan. This is what is best for the team.

Of course, if the leader acts unilaterally or in a way that is immoral, it is time to consider joining a new team.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!