The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

June 3, 2012

Filibusters at Work?

By Jim Hessler

Do your workplace allow the filibuster?

The filibuster is an arcane organizational procedure, perfected by the current Republican-controlled Senate. (I know they’re the minority party there, but clearly they’re controlling just about everything.)  Originally the filibuster was intended, as I understand it, to allow additional debate on critical issues – to enable the minority party to say, “Wait a minute here, we want to hold things up for a while to give this issue the thought it deserves.”

The filibuster has become, instead, a procedure by which the minority party, like a petulant child, says, “If we can’t win, nobody wins” — after which they take their ball and go home.

Does this sound like your workplace at all? Are certain of your co-workers allowed to derail important efforts? Are there a few whose disapproval, either active or passive, can prevent important decisions from being made?

Sometimes powerful people sit like a rock in the middle of the stream, creating turbulence for anyone who wants to get past them. Sometimes these people are simply overly cautious – other times they are politically motivated and interested in protecting their own turf.  Either way, they impede progress.

Good leadership doesn’t allow this. No matter how outspoken, entrenched, or influential, opposition to progressive business ideas must sometimes be forcefully removed. If you can’t successfully get around the rock, maybe you need to dynamite it.

Of course, you don’t use power or force until you’ve used influence. But while you’re patiently making your case to the reluctant, be cognizant of the frustration you might be causing with the willing. Sometimes the leader has to say, “Not everyone’s in agreement here, but we’re moving forward anyway.”

The great leader doesn’t always need 100% consensus.  In the best interests of the team, decisions sometimes need to be made without everyone voting yes.


About the Author

Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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