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Be an individual, not a “nodding head.”

Scott Agnoli

Scott Agnoli

Founder/CEO, Corporate Coach, Author, Speaker, Designer, Marketer

Listen on Apple Podcasts

When trying to find favor with your manager or boss, agreeing with them one hundred percent of the time would be foolish. After all, is there anyone you agree with 100% of the time? Let me ask you another question: How many times have you thought to yourself, that guy always agrees with the boss, what a brown-noser. After being a manager for more than half my career, I can tell you with certainty, anyone who is a “nodding head” did not serve themselves or me well. I also know from sitting in high-level, board room meetings, being someone who always agrees with the boss is recognized and not in a positive way.

I was in a meeting with several levels of people ranging from the C-suite to front line staff. Several times in the meeting, the COO would throw out a solution to a problem we were facing. After each idea, there was a domino-like effect around the board room table. Starting with senior managers and all down the line, everyone agreed with the top brass, except for one mid-level manager. Sometimes she agreed, sometimes she did not. During a later stage of the meeting, when others were offering their solutions to the COO, he would think about it, and then, here is the interesting thing, he would specifically ask that mid-level manager what she thought before giving his reaction.

What played out between the COO and the mid-level manager is typical in the corporate world. Executive and senior managers see right through the actions of the “nodding head.” They can easily see when someone agrees with them just because of their position, I have witnessed it myself when managing departments both big and small. Someone who thinks for themselves and will challenge others around the table is valuable to the decisionmakers. Disagreeing with a senior manager or executive may not be a smart career move in most cases. However, when deciding on business matters, executives need real buy-in from the rank and file. Nothing torpedos an initiative faster than people saying yes in the board room and bad-mouthing the idea during implementation.

A healthy debate with my direct reports about my ideas was always productive. When an honest debate takes place, your subordinates can challenge your ideas, and together, you develop a much better solution. The theory of one plus one equals three is much better than having everyone agree to a half-baked and problematic idea. Senior managers may not always use the feedback of those who challenge them; after all, they are the boss. Nine times out of ten, they are going to like their idea better. But one thing I know for sure, a mental note is made in that manager’s mind that you are a person who thinks for themselves and for the betterment of the organization.

When I was a senior director, my best employees were ones who challenged me. They were the ones I knew I could count on to give me honest feedback and not just agree with me. These are the types of employees who are valued and given the opportunities to advance. They make the whole team better.

The critical things you need to do to progress in the corporate world is to be respected, liked, and trusted. It would be best if you never disagreed without reason and supply an alternative solution. Just saying, “I disagree,” will put you on the fast train to being tagged the “negative” employee (someone you do not want to be, ever). A close second is being the employee who always says yes. Being the “nodding head” will devalue your opinion. I know I have dismissed many employee’s feedback because I knew they were telling me what I wanted to hear instead of what I needed to hear.

If you want your opinion to be valued, be a great listener, be collaborative, and give honest feedback backed with logic. If you do this, your input will be sought out by your manager and, most importantly, by senior executives. Having the attribute of being an intelligent, straight shooter and hard worker can put you on the fast track to the corner office.

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