Behind closed doors in many executive manager circles today, the devil’s advocate is a very real position hired for an essential role – to find managment’s blind spots. They’re the naysayer officially meant to second guess their ideas, poke holes at their project plans and question their every move. Why do you need a devil’s advocate? If you have your eye on a management role one day, you will be constantly challenged by other people, questioned and in defense mode a lot. You are in a new set of shoes with decisions to make. Calling the shots unfortunately means you are not always going to be liked. But you’re not there to make friends at work anyway, right? : )
Logic dictates that you surround yourself with people who will support you in your career (and you should) plus the feel-good factor they bring to the table.
Don’t kid yourself; you should also have that one person who is the constant critic, the one who will shoot down your ideas and initiatives as well.
Unfortunately you can’t simply hire this person, that’s not real life unless you can seriously pull rank at your firm. However this is someone you find subtly as you work with people. It could be someone who never agrees with you, so why not engage them regularly and use it to your advantage? Use their comments and controversial opinions to fully think through what it is that you are doing. Put down your pride and don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong. You may find that you actually agree with them, which admittedly doesn’t put you in a very powerful place but does keep you honest. Hearing their opinions without going into defense mode can make all the difference to redirecting your strategy.
There’s also the unofficial devil’s advocate and the more probable one you want, because they’re safer and have your best interests at heart. They’re the one you can always check in with, because they do not think the way you do. It can be a former colleague or boss you run by your ideas every once in a while or even a retired executive. They have plenty of time on their hands and would be humbled to contribute their opinions.
Your devil’s advocate should be the person who is brutally honest, looks you in the eye and says “Sounds great, but have you thought of this…?”
They’re looking out for your blind spots and by their controversial opinions always have your back. Consider them the C.Y.A. police. Have you covered yourself at work? Did you miss anything? What haven’t you considered and what are the risks of not taking their feedback seriously?
This isn’t a topic often talked about in leadership and yet it is a reality in our careers most of the time. As women we strive for the perfection gene which is why we are so passionate about success, but finding our blind spots is an equally important strategy. Test the waters on this one – it doesn’t get more gutsier than that.
With love and lots of gutsiness,