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Fighting the good fight

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Good bosses fight as if they are right and listen as if they are wrong—and teach their people to do the same.

Pixar director Brad Bird—who worked on “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”—could serve as a poster child for that sentiment. He understood that a big part of his job was to create enough trust so people could fight over decisions.

In the bonus material of “The Incredibles” DVD, you can actually see his team engaged in great, passionate fights.

How to lead a good fight:

  • Don’t start an argument during the initial generation of ideas. Make it safe for people to suggest anything.
  • Involve everyone by gently reining in the loudest and encouraging the wallflowers.
  • Watch nonverbal behavior. Are they smiling? Smirking? Model constructive nonverbal behavior.
  • After the fight is over, soothe those who feel personally attacked or whose ideas were shot down. Coach those who need pointers.
  • Surrender gracefully when you’re wrong, and get on to the next decision worth fighting about.

-- Adapted from “It's Up to You to Start a Good Fight,” Robert I. Sutton, Harvard Business Review blog “The Conversation.”

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