Breaking the Ice: Bridging Dissent and Loyalty
If you’ve ever found yourself holding back a contrary opinion at work, or biting your tongue during a heated family dinner, you’re not alone. The idea of dissent is often shrouded in fear and misunderstanding. However, when I read Ozan Varol‘s telling of Netflix’s 2011 Qwikster saga regarding the risks of confirmation bias in Awaken Your Genius (A MUST READ!), a fresh perspective emerged as I thought back to my experiences and how I internalized dissent — the concept of dissent as a vibrant expression of loyalty.
Reimagining Loyalty: The Dissent Paradox
We often equate loyalty with quiet compliance and unquestioning agreement. Yet, what if loyalty’s true essence is found in thoughtful dissent? A culture that embraces dissent is one that champions transparency, diverse viewpoints, and continuous improvement. Such an environment instills loyalty among team members, making them feel acknowledged and heard. It also breeds loyalty towards leaders who show openness and commitment to their organization’s betterment. Dissent, when conveyed respectfully and professionally, can send a powerful message: “I care so much about you and this organization that I am willing to be vulnerable to ensure we make the best possible decisions.”
Surely, dissent can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when it means challenging authoritative figures who influence your career. Yet, when an environment that supports dissent is fostered, it can trigger breakthroughs, personal growth, and the formation of a united, robust team.
So, let’s examine Netflix’s story about their 2011 Qwikster debacle and how they transformed from a company where a Vice President later told Hastings, “You’re so intense when you believe in something . . . that I felt you wouldn’t hear me. I should have laid down on the tracks screaming that I thought it would fail. But I didn’t.”
Unpacking Netflix’s Dissent Chronicle
Netflix’s 2011 Qwikster episode serves as a captivating case study of this principle. The announcement of Qwikster, a proposed standalone DVD-by-mail service, ignited a customer backlash and led to a significant dip in the company’s stock price. Netflix later reversed the decision. They also took a more important and long-term critical step. Instead of dismissing this setback, Netflix’s leadership used it as a springboard to create a culture that cherishes dissent.
To ensure that dissent is identified and expressed before a significant decision is taken, Netflix has implemented various systems across the organization. For instance, when a Netflix team member has a proposition, they often circulate a spreadsheet asking colleagues to evaluate the idea on a scale from -10 to +10 and to add comments. This system is not designed to serve as a democratic poll. Rather, it’s a tool aimed at facilitating feedback collection, measuring the magnitude of dissent, and initiating frank discussions.
This system and, thus, the leadership recognized that averting future blunders required an environment conducive to voicing concerns and challenging decisions. This ‘dissent-farming’ culture nudged team members to express their views, even when these contradicted leadership decisions. This dissent, in turn, embodied an intense loyalty towards the company’s mission and vision.
A key point is that this dissent collection occurs before a decision or course of action. Doing such after can often be destructive and cowardice.
Hyper Loyalty: The Dissent Evolution
Netflix’s adoption of dissent reshaped its organizational culture and redefined the meaning of loyalty. By nurturing dissent, the leadership demonstrated their commitment to the company’s progress, thereby winning their team’s loyalty. Team members, by articulating dissent, displayed their unwavering dedication to the company’s success, symbolizing a paradoxical form of loyalty.
Netflix has gone from a culture where a VP did not feel he would be heard to one where Hastings stated, “To disagree silently is disloyal.”
The Last Word: Welcoming Dissent
In conclusion, dissent, when encouraged, appreciated, and constructively employed, can transform into a beacon of hyper loyalty. It underscores a commitment to shared goals, respects the multiplicity of perspectives, and cultivates a conducive atmosphere for growth and progress. Loyalty, therefore, is no longer synonymous with passive compliance; it is about caring enough to express disagreement, defy the status quo, and advocate for improvement.
The next time you encounter dissent, whether at work or over a meal with your family, don’t view it as a challenge. Instead, recognize it as a profound act of loyalty and a deep-seated expression of care.
Every year, the holiday season rolls around, and with it often comes the daunting task of annual strategic planning. Traditionally conducted in December, this practice, upon closer examination, may be less than ideal.
Let’s dive into why a rethink may be in order (aka. Why I hate this practice and your team probably does, too.)
December is holiday season, a time when employees are either on vacation or mentally preparing for festivities. The period is rife with distractions, making it challenging to focus on annual planning. Consequently, strategic initiatives and long-term goals may be rushed, rather than thoroughly considered.
Despite its portrayal as a time of joy, the holiday season can be emotionally taxing. Family pressures, feelings of loneliness, or memories of lost loved ones can complicate this time of year for many. Add these to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD affecting nearly 3 million people annually, peaks during the darker months of December and January.
Demanding tasks like annual planning during this period can exacerbate these emotional challenges, potentially leading to a decline in mental health and productivity. Moreover, this could create a pressure-cooker environment where employees feel they must suppress personal feelings for professional obligations. This approach not only undermines individual well-being, but also the creation of a supportive, empathetic workplace culture.
Frankly, many people are just trying to get through the holiday season without a blow-up with their inappropriate uncle who goes on random political rants or their crazy cousin who believes birds aren’t real. I don’t like contributing to the craziness.
By December, most are winding down and looking forward to a break. After a year of hard work, employees are often mentally and emotionally exhausted. This fatigue can negatively impact the quality of annual planning, with critical thinking and creativity suffering.
Annual planning relies on data from the current year. However, in December, this data set is incomplete. Planning without the full picture can lead to unrealistic goals or misguided strategies for the upcoming year.
The time constraints of December often result in rushed decisions. Annual planning—a comprehensive process that includes reviewing the past year’s performance, setting new goals, and developing strategies to achieve these goals—requires time. If compressed into a short timeframe, the quality of decisions may be compromised.
December annual planning leaves little room for flexibility. Once the plan is set, it becomes the roadmap for the following year. However, business environments are dynamic, and rigid plans made in December might not be adaptable enough to accommodate unforeseen changes.
Finally, it lacks intellectual honesty to believe we will get the best of people during December. Why would we want anything less when planning the important work for the next 12 months?
I am putting out this post now as we enter summer here in the northern hemisphere. These months will zip by with vacations and jam packed weekends. Before we let December sneak upon us, it’s worth reconsidering this practice given its potential drawbacks. Now would be the moment to adjust the timing or approach to annual strategic planning to improve the quality of strategic decisions and pave the way for greater success in the years to come.
Up until a few years ago, I had always disliked the charity pictures of a company representative, usually the CEO or President, giving a big (in physical size) check to a charity representative. It seemed the opposite of what I had always been taught about helping others. One helped for one reason – because it’s the right thing. I believed the big check was about the photo opportunity, the press release, or the kudos from peers for the company.
I missed something though. I mistakenly viewed it as a public stunt to benefit the company. The reality is that it serves the charity more. It gets the charity exposure. It encourages others to help or, at least, ask how and if they can help. The need to give exposure is why we purposely and purposefully change our approach to our involvement. Last year, Forbes profiled our commitment to the startup community. Providing exposure to how others are helping is only part of our change regarding community engagement.
Lives are busy, and very few people have the time to wake up every day to think about how to better serve their communities. Even fewer have the time to volunteer despite wanting to do so. Thus, in 2016, we’ve announced our “16 in ’16” volunteer program, to provide Contegians paid time off to serve their communities.
The decision and ability to do this stemmed from three key factors:
1. Our Mission – I am proud of how often we talk about core values which guide our day-to-day. Our mission guides the long term. Our mission is to empower those around us, specifically Contegix stakeholders. This includes our customers, partners, and members of the Contegix family. Yet, the stakeholders extend beyond our digital and physical walls. They extend into our community.
2. Our Success (Through Hard Work) – A core measure of our success is the growth of our people, specifically their skills, their knowledge, their personal development, and their impact on the community. Over the past few years, our individual and collective hard work has been rewarded. We have achieved significant success, and I have no doubt that we will continue to do so. I have always believed this success and growth is what delivers sustainable financial results. That’s the reward but never the goal.
3. “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” – I am reminded of this religious-inspired quote from John F. Kennedy. Regardless of religious or political affiliation, I believe this concept stands and is core to humanity. The selfless help given by many during the recent flooding echoed and demonstrated this.
With this in mind, Contegix will be engaging a company commitment to empower and help those in our larger community. Each Contegian will be donating nearly 1% of her time to empower and help those around us. Every Contegian is expected to volunteer for 16 hours in 2016. This is in addition to our current company-wide commitments of time.
As part of our core value of respecting people and time, every Contegian will be provided paid time off to volunteer at the following organizations:
“Do well by doing good.”
— Benjamin Franklin