Revista Mensual y Gratuita
Nº99, November 2011
The power of those who manage a company, organization or government attracts smarmy ‘yes’s’ and pushes away responsible ‘no’s’. It is easier or less risky to join the parade of those who adulate than to point out a disagreement, a mistake, a warning on possible negative consequences of a decision that is to be taken. At the other end, those who systematically oppose a certain initiative multiply the ‘no’s’ to such an extent that they are extremely exposed to emptying them of meaning and credibility.
Those who manage initiatives develop an ability to make things happen and, in that effort –which is not minor- whatever blocks or delays the ‘doing’ turns out to be annoying, dysfunctional for the short-term. There are good reasons for that feeling because the difficulties involved in any management are not scarce, even more so if the goal is to transform the present situation since interests resilient to change will have to be faced. In all cases it is necessary to overcome functional and technical obstacles; to work with those who think differently; to fight the disinformation, ignorance, negligence or indifference of some; to solve any lack of coordination there could be between the actors involved; to face spurious interests, discrepancies among splinter groups, corporate or political patronage, corruption, energies’ sterilization, hidden intentions, aggressive personalities. In short, what the manager has to face so that what he or she proposes can finally be materialized is far from little. It must not come as a surprise then that those doers do not encourage prolonging arguments that could delay or immobilize their actions; they are the ones that ultimately make the main decisions and assume the risks and consequences of having made them. In that context, how can one express a disagreement, a non conventional proposal; how to influence in order to improve and not delay or paralyze?
Repeated no’s spring from those stubbornly opposed to the initiative in course; some are well-founded but generally much more are unfounded and, in this sense, malicious. For an opponent it is much more difficult –but all the more brave- to offer a yes to the management in course when convinced of the initiative in question’s merit. Few are the opponents capable of giving a responsible yes; it could turn against them. Besides, the pressures those who stubbornly oppose an initiative receive are not meant to value the management’s results but to discredit them. Honesty and dignity are not frequent assets when narrow interests are at stake.
It is just as hard to offer a no from the very management team. To implement or consolidate an initiative demands so much effort that managers present harsh resistance to accept, beyond brief exchanges of opinions, a new front of discussion emerging from within their own team. That no can disturb, be untimely, maybe even suspicious; it has costs and implications for those who express them, although it may later on end up avoiding mistakes or shortcomings.
A responsible no and a responsible yes can help build a better future and a more sustainable trajectory. But it takes courage and ability to express them. Courage to speak up one’s own truth even when the majority of voices pretends to silence it (there is no shortage of custodians and guardians of conventional courses and they can become fierce). But courage has to be accompanied by the ability not to be disruptive nor generate, except for extreme cases, the initiative’s collapse. One will have to use certain ways and choose opportunities that facilitate being heard. Sometimes, moderate observations are enough; other times, when channels of expression are blocked, confidentiality implodes and disagreements become public.
Today not many know how to combine honesty, courage and ability to voice a responsible no or yes. When they do, they contribute with discretion and without vociferating to strengthening a better decision’s environment, containing and even protecting doers often too embedded in their commitment to build. That contribution, although not very visible, is crucial to strengthen an environment of democratic participation in all sorts of organizations and institutions. As it always happens, responsibility does not emerge easily here either: it goes hand in hand with bravery and integrity.
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