Forget about trying to appear diplomatic. When you compromise, you willfully give in to mediocrity.
I was in the middle of a conversation with a team member the other day and I caught myself almost committing to what I consider to be one of the worst sins of business leadership.
I almost compromised.
In that moment of weakness, I saw myself almost head down a path from which it is often hard to return. It would have been so easy to just give in, to let it happen.
The slip-up almost happened while I was discussing the final approvals for a marketing campaign that was intended to generate online "clicks" that would turn into leads. I wanted to use a bold headline and concept. I knew it would work.
My team member wanted to soften the message, which in turn would soften the impact and the result. We had been back and forth for a couple of weeks about this particular campaign--massaging the wording, perfecting the call to action. Frankly, I was tired of talking about it.
It would have been so very easy in that moment to decide to compromise, in the name of giving in and keeping the peace. Then I could move on to something else on my long to-do list.
It's in this kind of compromise that some of the greatest companies fall off a cliff and enter the realm of mediocrity.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying don't listen to others' ideas or don't listen to reason. You should surround yourself with a team that is constantly challenging you and making your company and your approach better.
I am saying that you should never sway from your stance if you know you are right. It's your company, it's your vision, you carry the burden if something fails. You also reap the greatest reward.
In my research, I have found that the bigger your company grows, the more likely it is for compromises to start creeping in. Many leaders, especially entrepreneurial leaders, are ready to get on with it, move forward. The danger lies in this impatience.
It is up to you as the leader to set the tone. Once others see that you're willing to compromise for no good reason, they'll start to do the same. Compromise then grows like a cancer and turns your great company into something average to far worse.
That's why it's important when you do back down from a decision or decide to move in another direction that you explain why you have made this new choice. Providing the reason not only shows your willingness to listen, it also provides important insight into how you make decisions for the company, so staffers learn to do the same.
When I thought about how I would explain the change in that marketing campaign's wording, I realized I was about to compromise--that I didn't agree with my team member and he hadn't provided me with a good case for why we should change direction. I knew if I allowed the campaign to be changed, and if I was asked, that my only answer could be "because I was tired of talking about it."
Check yourself when you start to give in to a suggestion or recommendation as you grow your company. If you feel you can justify it, and the change is backed by good evidence, then you're making a good decision. If the answer is anything less, then reconsider, because you're probably about to compromise.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the “whys” of business – why customers buy, why teams work and the all-important “entrepreneurial why”. He is the author of Laddering and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. Learn more about Eric at www.ladderingworks.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. @eholtzclaw