How to commit when you disagree

One of our leadership principles at Amazon is Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit. For many of us, having backbone and stating a case for what we think is right is the easy part. It’s the committing when you disagree that becomes challenging.

We focus on disagreeing and committing not to let leadership have any easy excuse to get their way, but to keep moving forward quickly. Delivering on the project and failing fast gets us to our goal so much quicker than spending time making sure everyone agrees. There are so many variables to our projects that we’re never going to be 100% aligned. Disagree, commit to the project, and keep going.

Now, I know what you are thinking. This sounds great in theory, but in practice it’s not always this easy. No one wants to put their name on a project they think is a joke or wants to focus doing something they think is a total waste of time. I get it. I’ve totally been there, but here are 3 ways I’ve been able to commit when I disagree.

1. Look for a part of the project you do agree with. You might not agree with the overall project, but even being able to commit to a portion of it will help you not dread it as much.

For example, my old team was launching a new feature to an existing product that had a horribly biased name and did not really add any value to the customer. In my opinion, this new feature was us talking to ourselves and thinking we knew what the customer wanted better than they did.

I was asked to create a high-profile marketing strategy to drive awareness and adoption. I did not want my name associated with anything about this feature. I did not believe in its value and was not impressed with its lack of capabilities. I fully disagreed, but struggled to commit because I’m not the type of person that fakes it easily.

I did believe that I could create a marketing strategy that allowed for multiple test and learn opportunities to let the data indicate which message was actually driving customer engagement. So that’s what I committed to. I create the marketing strategy, launched it testing multiple feature messages and used the data to frame the ongoing marketing strategy for the product. Spoiler alert, I was right. The new featured bombed and we quickly pivoted away from it. But if I had not committed to creating a testing plan, I would not have had the data to support my argument going forward.

2. Commit to getting more data. Most of the time, the reason we don’t all agree is because we don’t have all the data to make the decision for us. Sometimes just committing to getting the data makes all the difference.

For example, a client of mine was struggling with her manager. She was asked to create multiple email marketing campaigns that went to millions of customers to drive product sales. She knew this was not scalable, a horrible customer experience, and not going to drive the downstream impact on the business they were working towards. She kept putting it off until her manager started to escalate it.

She disagreed that this was how she should spend her time and the impact it would have on the business, but she did commit to getting the data to find out. She sent all the emails and tracked the performance closely. What she learned was majority of the email test did not meet performance goals and she was right. She also learned a few of the segments did perform and her manager was right.  Being committed to getting the data allows everyone to drop the drama and simply do what the data said.

3. Commit to yourself. Sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to, but if you can find a way to commit to yourself and find something in it for you, that can be commitment enough.

Maybe you disagree with having a weekly business review that takes up so much time and does not actually improve the business. Commit to yourself that you are going to find a way to get something valuable out of the meeting for yourself. Even if it’s just face time with senior leadership.

Or maybe you disagree with the promotions process because it’s so ambiguous and politically driven. Commit to yourself to not let the process be the reason you don’t get what you deserve.

 Moral of the story, look for one part of the thing you disagree with to commit to and go all in on that. I promise it will make all the difference.

Chat soon,

LB

P.S. Want help applying this and taking it to the next level? Let’s jump on the phone for some free coaching. Sign up HERE.