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  • Andrew Gordon

When you disagree, listen

A conversation with an AutoTech CEO from last week has been playing on repeat in my head. The CEO had surveyed potential customers and found that CRM integration was the top feature requested. Churn data from the last 12 months also found that a lack of CRM integration was a top cause.

His plan was to prioritize these integrations to keep them on track for this year and next. The chairman of the board disagreed with the CEO’s plan, and wanted to prioritize a new revolutionary feature. The CEO called asking for advice about changing the chairman’s mind.

“Is the chairman intelligent?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied.

“Are they trying to hurt you or the company?” I asked. “Nope, the chairman wants it to succeed as much as I do,” he replied.

If the chairman is smart and wants what is best for the company, why would he give bad advice?

The answer is simple. He wasn’t. There was information asymmetry.

He was giving the best advice he had with the knowledge he had. Either the CEO or the Chairman likely had more information than the other, and they were disagreeing instead of sharing information.

My advice to the CEO was simple. Don’t try to convince the chairman that you are right. Go in assuming that he knows more than you do, and truly listen to understand his position. You’ll either learn and agree with him, or learn what information you have that he’s missing. In either case, truly listening is the key to information asymmetry.

The CEO called me a few days later. It turns out that the chairman didn’t disagree after all. He just didn’t understand why the CRM integration would take so long that it squeezed out other product developments. Now, the CEO knew what information needed to be shared to align the team.

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