I miss my Greek friends.
I thought about this when I was deliberating the content for my story about alignment, growth cue #6 in my playbook.
From 2011 until 2014, I worked in Bulgaria and was part of an international leadership team, including a few Greek colleagues.
The leader of it all was Kostas, one of the most inspirational, direct, and warm leaders I’ve met in my life.
Kostas is commercially brilliant, provides a lot of latitude for decision making, empowers his people. Like many Greeks, Kostas has a strong opinion about almost everything and loves the debate.
Kostas taught me that almost every word in business originates from a Greek word. And even if it didn’t, it still did, if you know what I mean.
Under Kostas’s leadership, I learned the difference between agreement and alignment in practice.
Not that we talked about it a lot. We practiced it.
Greeks seldom agree with each other immediately.
When you have the privilege to witness Greeks debating, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a pleasure to be part of, provided you don’t let it get to you.
If you take things personally often, then this debating style is not for you. You may feel like you’re under rapid-fire attack, and your days in the company are numbered.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is how debate and disagreement look like.
And I hope it never disappears. It’s a strong part of the culture. Greeks wear their heart on their sleeve.
It also explains why it’s hard for foreigners to be part of the Greek culture. It’s not easy to get in. There’s a lot to get used to.
My three years with this team were a blessing for someone who likes honesty, directness, and transparency.
We disagreed a lot, but there was alignment with the outside world when the conversation was over.
And if alignment was not yet reached, there was always the little village Taverna where the forces got aligned in the evening.
Greeks invest in the relationship.
It’s the foundation for the way they do business. It’s also the foundation for disagreement, debate, and finding the best possible solution for a problem.
You don’t always have to agree, as long as you align.
That’s the key message for today.
It’s detrimental to any organization if people smell that the senior leadership is not aligned.
Or even worse, if leaders of senior leadership express their differing opinions to their people in the corridors after the meeting.
“We’ve decided not to pay-out bonuses this year, but I don’t agree with it.”
Have you ever heard a sentence like this from one of your leaders?
If this ever happens again to you, make sure you let your leader know he’s a coward. You don’t have to agree but aligned is aligned.
Otherwise, you need to go.
So, please, never do this to your team. It makes you look weaker as a leader.
As leaders, we should build diversity of thought in our teams. We should allow debate and disagreement when trying to find common ground.
It pays off to hear different perspectives.
And in the end, if there’s no agreement, the leader still has the right to decide. But only when the debate has been transparent, power games were put to the side, and the team agrees to operate with one voice when leaving the room.
That’s how agreement and alignment work.
Kostas understands that.
Your turn: how do you align with your team?
Do more of what makes you happy!