You read that right – Chief Agitator. Some people might call this role Troublemaker, Rabble-Rouser, Rogue, Agent Provocateur, Firebrand, Mischief-Maker, Hell Raiser. I like Badass, myself.
If Chief Agitator sounds like a role that’s right for you, read on. For the rest of you conformist types, back to your cubicle and task list. Come see me when you’ve worked through that list and I’ll give you another. No talking! No gum chewing! And turn off that music!
Okay, I’m kidding. But seriously…would you rather sit in a cubicle all day long and toe the line or constructively question the majority when appropriate? I can tell you from experience that the latter is more fun (although not without frustration in certain instances).
Top Performing Teams Agitate
No matter what the moniker, research indicates teams with a lone minority dissenter outperform other teams where all members agree. These teams with a devil’s advocate were also found to be more successful than teams in which all members disagree, which often leads to intense, emotional altercations.
Before embarking on your journey as Chief Agitator, it’ll serve you well to heed the words of Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” Carnegie first published this timeless bestseller in 1936 and since then, over 15 million copies have been sold. Some of the most famous people in the world credit Carnegie’s book with helping them climb the ladder of success, both personally and professionally.
Constructive Dissension = Positive Outcomes
To succeed as the Chief Agitator, your goal is constructive dissension that leads to positive outcomes, not discord. Here are 6 things I’ve borrowed from Dale Carnegie that you can put to work right away to set yourself up for success in your role as Chief Agitator:
- Don’t criticize, condemn, and complain
- If you’re wrong, admit it ASAP
- Make others feel important
- Give honest and sincere appreciation of people and their ideas
- Take the time to see things from the other person’s POV
- Listen more than you talk
The first one on the list has been tough for me to apply in certain work situations over the years. But listen, it’s not me…it’s the human brain causing the problem. Really.
Our Brains Notice What’s Not Right
Developmental psychologist Nancy S. Buck, PhD, RN says our brains are hardwired to notice what’s not right, or a mismatch between what we want and what we perceive we’re actually getting in our world. It’s an attribute that’s necessary for our survival. So, our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in the world, according to us. Thing is, when we notice out loud it sounds like complaining.
As for admitting when I’m wrong, I’ve learned how to do that like a professional after 20 years of marriage! I’ve found that owning when I’m wrong and saying it out loud often makes for a much better environment at home — and yes, it’ll work for you at work, too (I’m NOT wrong about that).
As for the rest of the list, these are things I strive to do every day and not just at work. Being empathetic, honest, and a good listener while appreciating others and they way they think and see the world makes the interactions I have in the wild much more enjoyable than they otherwise might be.
What About You?
Are you now or do you see yourself in a Chief Agitator role? Are you practicing any or all of the things from the list above in your daily interactions? What would you add or change? Please share your thoughts in the comments.