CEO Coaching: Do You Get Into and Allow Good Trouble?
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year; it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
—Congressman John Lewis
The more I know of the former congressman, the more I appreciate what a good person he was. A great orator with a great message from a fearless guy!
I particularly like his “good trouble” message. I don’t want to diminish from his message regarding racial equality, but also it applies very well to careers and running a business.
I’ve often told younger leaders that they may have to risk their job (several times!) to do what’s right and get out of a tough situation. Heaven knows I’ve made many mistakes in my career (and life in general), but I’ve also spoken the truth to power. And although I never had the pleasure of being fired, I did quit several senior positions out of disgust. It was good trouble to get in. I’d like to say I had Lewis’ lifetime perspective, but frankly, I was more just pissed off (for good reason).
In both circumstances, this cost me a good deal of future income, but as I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Most of the talented executives I’ve coached had to make some noise and get in good trouble sometime in their career. Some even got fired. If you routinely run from the good fight, you end up being a shallow leader.
If you’re fortunate and talented enough to run an organization, this message applies not only to you personally, but also to your culture (which, by the way, you either actively created or allowed). The question is, do you allow people to bring “good trouble” to work, or do you squash dissent and truth-tellers? As I wrote recently, you should pursue alignment, but agreement isn’t always a good thing!
Todd coaches CEOs to higher levels of success. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000 people. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing).