In recent weeks, we have learned a lot about the private life of Michael Jackson and the kinds of people he surrounded himself with. Michael had a close circle of supporters and advisors around him at all times. Sadly, we’re also learning most of them were enablers as well.
It seems whatever Michael wanted, Michael got. The Jackson family is considering a lawsuit against his personal doctor, who supplied him with a mix of different prescription medications. It is looking more and more like his heart attack was brought about by the drugs he was taking.
Mike’s Way or the Highway
Michael Jackson was known for quickly replacing those around him if he was challenged in any way. The people who worked for him knew this, so they catered to his every whim. This arguably contributed to his increasingly erratic behavior over the years. When those around you never say no, always tell you you’re right, and support everything you do, it’s easy to drift further and further from reality.
Watching this play out made me think of how we treat clients, or customers, or bosses. Is it a good idea to play it safe and always agree with them, even when you know better? Should you bite your tongue if you think they are wrong, or if the request they are making will hurt them more than help them? What is the role of “tough love” in your professional life?
Just Say No
It’s a fine line to walk and should be handled with caution, but being a Yes Man is a bad idea. If a client comes to you with a request or project that you feel should be approached differently, you should raise your concerns (in a respectful way of course). Otherwise they could be headed down the wrong path. Even worse, you’re going to help them get there. You will be enabling them. The entire time you are involved with the project, you will be full of resentment. You will shut down mentally, and the work you produce will suffer. Plus, you are putting your name on something that you don’t believe in. You won’t consider your work an accomplishment you are proud of, you won’t be able to share it with other clients, and you will start to view your business as a burden.
The same applies to being an employee. Providing feedback to customers or management is valuable and a necessary requirement towards creating a healthy work environment. The process of discussing disagreements can often provide insights that lead to better and stronger ideas. If an idea your boss has can’t stand up to your scrutiny, how will it succeed in execution?
Heads vs. Hands
Now, there are always going to be people who aren’t looking for your feedback. They know (or think they know) what they want, and they just want it done without question. This relates back to the post regarding heads vs. hands. It is up to you what role you want to play in your career.
If you are content with being a pair of hands and just executing what other people want, that’s fine. But if you prefer to contribute to ideas and discussion, but are hesitant because you feel someone won’t respond well, speak up. More often than not, you will be surprised how well people respond to feedback and how it will improve the end result in the long-run. Remember, everything we do professionally should be about results, not just the process. So if you have some input that you feel will improve those results, then share it.
I have worked for countless people and clients in my career that needed a little bit of tough love. And when they got it, most of them appreciated it and saw the value in my contribution. So take some risks and speak your mind.
Enabling the bad ideas of other people is a recipe for unhappiness. For both you and them.
One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.