Level of Debate

I’d recently interviewed a young man and wanted to add him to my team. Before doing so I had to get the CEO to agree to a salary and benefits package that would entice the candidate to leave his current job.

We bantered back and forth. I brought up the candidates experience and skills which would allow him to manage accounts from day one. The CEO did not have an issue with the salary I proposed, but he was concerned it might cause issues within the group.

Both of us held firm to our positions. We both raised our voices, but not in a pejorative manner. We were both passionate about the company. I wanted the best person for my team, while the CEO wanted what was best for not just my team but the entire company.

When I’d just started to wonder if I was pushing the issue too far, the CEO made a proposal we both could live with. I shook his hand and told him I’d rewrite the job offer and have it ready for him to sign by end of day.

As I turned around to leave, he said, “I just want you to know that I’m OK with this level of debate.”

“So am I”, I replied.

That was six years ago, and I still regularly reflect on that exchange. What the CEO told me by his last remark and actions was that he was open to new ideas. That he was confident enough to hear others out and respect their opinions. It also taught me that not all debates must end with one winner and one loser.

I came to appreciate that boss even more when my next manager was the polar opposite. He was closed to any idea that didn’t originate with him, and he didn’t want to hear when he was leading the company off a cliff.

My current business partner is similar to my former CEO. We can debate a technical issues for hours, even raising our voices to the point where we have to take a break and return to the issue. He’s helped me see a topic from angles I’d never considered. He’s also allowed me to back off a opinion I’d asserted before more information came to light.

The relationships I enjoy most are those where my own beliefs and assumptions are questioned. Where I’m pushed in uncomfortable directions, yet come away with a new idea. That’s when I recognize the most growth.