How to Do What You Think Is Right When Everyone Disagrees
Entrepreneurship is defined by courage. Doing anything new is, really. The journey will be riddled with bumps, left-turns, and alternate routes. Unshakeable self-trust is hard to bluff your way into and projecting confidence when it does not exist is not sustainable. You need to believe it to your core. And you need that trust in yourself to think, lead, and build differently.
Your unique perspective is your competitive advantage. Unconventional thinking should and will provoke a response — especially from those who are invested in your success.
I was reflecting on this recently after a meeting with the Aha! leadership team. We were discussing strategic plans for the coming year and our go-to-market approach. When we got to a new concept that I had introduced and was energized to pursue, a few folks paused. Afterward I received a message expressing uncertainty about how the team would react. This did not surprise me.
Most humans prefer stability to change. So we examine anything novel through our existing worldview. Does the new thing fit or not? It is not unusual to experience a bit of resistance when what you want to do would require others to change or reevaluate that worldview. But that is the very nature of creativity and ingenuity. You have an insight that others do not — whether it is a good concept or bad one.
Breakthroughs do not happen in the safety of the known. Founders and product builders encounter this tension daily. It starts the day you begin — the very act of choosing to go your own way is a challenge to the status quo. People who cannot see the future that you do may be skeptical. And they might even be on your core team. As you keep pushing forward, it is very likely (and quite healthy) for your own team to voice opposition at times. It is how ideas are tested and often improved.
Remember that just as it takes courage to pursue your own ideas, it takes courage to voice disagreement with another’s.
You cannot simply ignore what others say. This is especially true within the power dynamic of a leader and a teammate — these are folks who you respect and care for. I believe it is important to listen and hear from people who disagree with you. But just because there will be times when many people disagree, it does not mean that you are wrong. Here is how I think about this paradox:
Speak your assumptions
You see the world differently than others. And that leads you to different conclusions. Good decisions are the result of critical thinking. Make sure to always check the context for your concept and any biases that might lead you in a certain direction. And when explaining the new idea, share what led you to it and how you see it playing out.
Argue against yourself
People think on varied levels. I am not referring to intelligence, but the way that we think. It is not possible to come up with an original idea in a few moments. Take the time to reason and fight against your own insights with counter-examples. Research, analyze different angles, and ask if there are better options for reaching a clearly defined goal.
You have a vision of something better. That desire to improve the world in some way and achieve for yourself is intrinsic to who you are. It is in your soul and you cannot escape it. To reach the goals you have set and deliver value, you must act with conviction. You owe it to yourself and the people you serve to follow through with intention.
Welcome the skeptic
Persistence is the only way forward. Typically, when someone is reacting negatively it is because they will be personally impacted in some way. It is possible to understand why someone might feel a certain way without agreeing with their point of view. Listen calmly. Resist the temptation to argue back and forth. Convey a consistent message — even if others express anxiety with where you want to take the team and company.
If you believe your goals are clear and insight sound, you will stay true to yourself and do what you think is right.
Note the last bit of that sentence above: “what you think is right.” The inference of course is that you are operating from a place of integrity. Founders have great responsibility — you are accountable for what you say and what you do. That responsibility is multiplied when there is dissent and you still push forward. But just because something is not popular does not make it wrong.
In my experience, almost all radical ideas are unpopular at first. Few people are ambitious and courageous enough to bring those types of ideas to life. You do it — not because it is easy, but because you know in your core that you must and that others will benefit from your persistence.
Read more of The Founder’s Paradox.