I just saw Charlie Wilson’s War. (I know — it’s been out forever, but I’m slow to get to the movies.) I loved the movie and thought about how Charlie did so well in Congress. He had a great strategy that works well for women in business, too.
What he accomplished on the House Appropriations Committee was to get the members he served with on board to support his ideas. How did he do it? Gust Avrakotos (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), the CIA operative who did some background checks on Charlie before he worked with him, told Charlie, “You have the largest number of IOUs in Congress.” Charlie gave his support to others first and then got it back when he needed it. That meant that Charlie had to make some tough decisions and often put his neck on the line.
All too often in business today, people think it’s better to stay on the sidelines when the time for decision-making comes around. They’re wrong. It’s a bad idea to have no opinion in business. Why? Having no opinion stops your ability to be promoted. Managers make decisions. Workers follow orders. If you’re striving to get ahead and you have no opinion, how can you demonstrate that you can make decisions?
Of course, there’s a downside to decision-making in business today: You risk making enemies. You might find it difficult to make decisions because you may have to disagree with some people with whom you work. That’s unpleasant. Yet, you have to expect at times that you might be on the wrong side of a decision. That’s OK. Reasonable people expect others to disagree with them at times. Just be gracious to others when you disagree with them. There will be a time when, like Charlie, you’ll need other people’s support for what you want. In business today there is an abundance of issues that need to be addressed. Trust that there will be ample opportunities in the future to be in agreement with others — and be able to collect your IOUs when you need them.
There’s something else you should think about when you are making decisions with others. Having practice in handling causing, and then gracefully handling, disagreements will make it easier to get to a point where you can agree. You can move forward when you lack total agreement with everyone. Groups can use a tool known as DISCO. It’s short for disagree and consensus. It means that in a group there comes a point where you recognize that everyone can’t agree, but there’s enough support in the group that everyone can support the group’s decision and move on.
So get comfortable making decisions in business. Some will work out better than others — just ask Charlie. His decision to be a staunch supporter of the Afghan people led to the Afghan people’s win over the Russians. Not bad for a guy from the United States Naval Academy, who received the second-highest number of demerits in the Academy’s history. Hopefully, you’ll make better decisions than he did when he was there.