I remember my first curmudgeon. It was a summer internship and I watched in awe as this old, grizzled veteran took swipes at management directives. Difficult, grumpy . . . and almost always speaking from a common sense truth lost on those sitting in meeting rooms higher up. I saw him at the time as trouble, now I realize how important his voice was. T.J. Tison reminds us why. See original article and more about T.J., here.
Why Your Business Needs a Curmudgeon
They’re pretty recognizable, the Curmudgeon. That one person who always seems to find the down side to an idea. They ask questions and make statements that seem to stop progress in its tracks. They never immediately go along with what everyone else wants to do. They are the thorn in your side at every meeting. You cringe when they open their mouth to speak. They frustrate you.
They also may be one of the best asset your company has. In fact, I think every business needs a Curmudgeon.
Don’t think of a Curmudgeon in the dictionary definition sense of some old cantankerous fellow, like these crusty guys who sat in the box seats in the Muppet Show.
Think instead of someone who is not afraid to state the obvious, and doesn’t beat around the bush to do it. Someone who tells it like it is.
Does your business have one of those? Here are some benefits to having one on your team:
Your Curmudgeon Helps you Think Different
One of Apple‘s longtime taglines is “Think Different”. They want to attract customers and employees who think different about everything in life.
How often do you think different in your business?
As business owners we often can’t see the forest through the trees. I see this a lot in business owners thatI help. They are often isolated with blinders on, unable to see a way or reason to do things differently than before. They get stuck in a rut, and ruts are bad for business.
Your Curmudgeon can help you get out of the rut, just by the way they think. Tap into them for a resource. Instead of pushing back every time they offer a dissenting thought or opinion about something, use it as an opportunity to think differently.
Your Curmudgeon Catches Mistakes
Because they see things differently than everyone else in the room, (and aren’t afraid to say something about it) your Curmudgeon can keep you from making some big mistakes.
You come up with a great idea. You pitch it at the meeting and everyone praises the idea (and you) for such brilliance. Then your Curmudgeon speaks up and points out some unintended consequence to your great idea. You bristle and are tempted to ignore them as a “Debbie Downer” who never likes your ideas. After exploring the thought further, you find out your idea could have some major faults in it that could cost you and your company.
If you always shoot down and shut up your Curmudgeon, you could pay for it big time. Set your ego aside, and listen and explore your Curmudgeon’s statements. It could save you from making big mistakes.
Your Curmudgeon Herds the “Yes Men” (and Women)
I often sit in on team meetings with my clients, and I can always pick out the “yes men” (and women). They are the ones who always go along with your ideas, even if they think they’re awful. They never want to rock the boat and they think they are there to just do what they’re told. You say something, and they smile politely and nod affirmatively. They stroke your ego and that’s their contribution. They aren’t really listening to you, just agreeing.
Andy Stanley says, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”
Your “yes men” (and women) have nothing to say. They are also dangerous to your business.
Your Curmudgeon helps herd them. Your “yes men” (and women) usually stay far away from your Curmudgeon. They don’t want you to associate them with him (or her). They’ve seen how you treat your Curmudgeon, and they want to stay on good terms with you.
Look for the gathering of the herd, and who stands apart from them. You’ll be able to spot your “yes men” (and women) immediately. You’ll also be able to spot your Curmudgeon. Try it at your next meeting and see if I’m telling the truth.
Your Curmudgeon is a valuable asset to your team. Listen to them, instead of ignoring them. Use them, instead of discounting them. They may be the best thing that ever happened to your business.
Who is your Curmudgeon?
Do you have one?
Do you think you need one?
Are you the Curmudgeon in your company?
All Curmudgeons are welcome here.