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Value Creation Blog

You Need Contrarians in Your Life

Posted by Josh Patrick

contrarian resized 600I get it; contrarians are a pain in the neck.  They often upset your well ordered world.  They even force you to think about things you would rather not. 

That’s the point!  Contrarians make you “check your premises.”  They help you think about the world in a different manner.

You see, I’m a contrarian.  Or, at least that what I’ve been called at several times in my life.  Sometimes it’s been as a polarity responder and sometimes as just a pain in the neck.  I have this really bad habit:  When something doesn’t make sense, I ask questions.

Contrarians will make you check your premises.

This is probably the most important reason you want to have contrarians around.  They’ll tell you if the emperor has no clothes.  They’ll ask why when no one else in the room is willing to do so.

I often find that contrarians are pretty forceful.  They have learned they have to be.  It’s not easy bringing up ideas that others might find a little out of the ordinary.  Contrarians often see their role in life to ask why.  Or, in my case, “what would happen if?”  Both of these questions might make you sit back and think.  Isn’t that a good thing to happen?

You don’t want a contrarian to be a pain just because they think its fun.

There are some contrarians who like to upset the apple cart just to see what happens.  They think this is a fun activity.  In some instances it can be fun.  Most of the time this activity is not appreciated by others.

You want to make sure the contrarians you deal with always have a point to their question.  Just asking questions because it’s what you do can delay things that make sense and really shouldn’t be questioned.  Not every issue needs to be examined at a microscopic level.

Having different opinions is a really good idea.

Contrarians are often great to have in meetings.  When they ask the tough question they provide permission for others in the room to ask questions they might be thinking about. 

I find that many contrarians, me included, don’t mind asking the tough question.  In my case I don’t even mind being wrong.  If you can help me understand the error of my ways I’ll let it go.  If not, I might become a pit bull.  It’s part of the deal in working with those who like the world to make sense.

Contrarians need to know who they are.

I have on various occasions been working with a contrarian who won’t admit that’s what they are.  These people can be dangerous and destructive in your organization.  You don’t want someone who upsets the apple cart and pretends they had nothing to do with it.

If you’re going to be a contrarian you have to have a high level of personal responsibility.  I often am responsible for having people question core premises.  If I’m not going to be responsible for this behavior I can cause a great deal of harm.

Don’t let contrarians bring your organization into a dysfunctional conversation.

The last thing you want to have happen is to let a contrarian disrupt your company to the point that decisions are frozen.  The big risk with contrarians is when they believe he or she is always right and insists on things being done their way.

Your contrarian might have a good point or they might have missed an important reason you do things.  You don’t need to tie up decisions when a contrarian misses the point.  I’ve learned and hope that any contrarians in your life have learned that getting your way is not what it’s all about.  Getting to a better answer is.

What do you think?  Do you actively look for contrarians to join your conversations?  If you’re not you might be missing some valuable feedback.

We’ve got a special report on the 7 Myths of the Private Business Owner.  This is a classic contrarian report.  I point out misconceptions that I’ve noticed many have when they think about what motivate those who own businesses.  To get this report, click on the button below.

Click Here for your Report:7 Myths of the Private Business Owner

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Topics: business coaching, asking why, scenario planning

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