Yes, indeed, most of us dread conflict as much as a dental visit or a speech in front of a room full of hecklers. And yet, conflict brings advantages – especially to businesses that really want to out-innovate their peers.

I recall a dinner on The Bosphorus in Istanbul where I chatted with an uberSuccessful entrepreneur. He enthusiastically shared his ideas on business-building, picking A Players (the bigger the dream, the more key the team) and delivering value to customers. And then he said something unforgettable: he revealed that his company hired a young man fresh out of business school with the sole job to passionately challenge every one of the great ideas the executive team came up with.

Loved it. Why? Because the beginning of the end of a great business (and life) is “the falling in love with your own most closely cherished ideas”. Yes, you have to believe in your vision when no one else will. Agreed. But – at the same time – following the same business model or way of working just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, is the way to inevitable obsolescence. This leader was incredibly smart: his company built a protocol to generate healthy conflict / to challenge their favored assumptions and to ensure that only the best ideas won.

Maybe it’s better to be surrounded by “No People” versus “Yes Men”? Please share your comments below – I’d love to get a conversation going on this point.

Please share this post:



42 Responses to “PICK FIGHTS FAST”

  1. asha says:

    you are the boss RS. at least in this regard. pick up the fights and resolve the problem than having yes sirs> to steer us nowhere..!

  2. Tokyo Titan says:

    Excellent post. Always good to challenge one’s beliefs, motives and ideas, especially when you have some skin in the game. Taking a step back and looking at things from a different perspective is difficult; great idea to have someone just challenge your ideas. I used to dread conflict, but it is how you toughen up your story, sales pitch, investment thesis, etc…

  3. Shashank says:

    True! When an idea is working for us, most tend to get relaxed and continue with the same idea/s for too long. This is recipe for disaster as competitors are always trying to innovate & bring something better. So. every team should have this culture where new ideas are constantly generated by challenging the older ones and also the new ones.

  4. Sunil Desai says:

    True, After I read your article I did a Pro-Con analysis of my business and the findings are unbelieavable. What you say is absolutely true.

  5. Kaleo Farias says:

    Aloha Robin,

    Thanks again for continuing to add “carry on value” to each and everyone of us that are both following you and helping you get the message out more than ever about “The Leader Who Had No Title.” Leadership and the helping of people better develop themselves, is definitely an eternal kind of work, that brings both meaning and fulfillment to ones life. Here is a quote i wanted to share. It says that “People’s Lives Are A Direct Reflection Of The Expectations Of Their Peer Group.” In regards to your newest entitled blog, “Pick Fights Fast,” i must say that i can think about outstanding humanitarians like Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela as perfect examples that emulate precisely what you brought up in the “Pick Fights Fast Blog.” These 3 outstanding human beings looked at the “status quo,” “challenged the status quo,” “got ridiculed” for challenging the status quo, but at the end it was socially accepted as the truth. These and many other examples are there to inspire us all to “Lead Without Titles,” in a more fulfilling, meaningful, and eternal way than we ever have before. Enjoy & Have yourself a Exceptional & Outstanding “Lead Without A Day,” everyone!!!

  6. Mike says:

    What a concept! Start a fight for the sake of innovation! BRAVO! Well said Robin.

  7. This subject has reminded me about myself :) I love challenging opposite – different ideas :) I’ve just got used to people first rejecting firstly than accepting… Don’t forget, every rejection is another step closer to approoval ;)

  8. robin says:

    Thanks for the comments. Robin

  9. Sunita Saldhana says:

    Love the idea! and I like what Kaleo said. Questioning and challenging old methods, ideas and beliefs is what helps us move forward. It is something I constantly do in my work, and besides finding better ways to do things, it also brings freshness to my work and keeps me from getting bored.

  10. Bernie says:

    Imagine the difference this type of thinking would make to boardroom meetings! How many people have genius inside of them, but for the fear of rocking the boat or challenging the boss? Not only that, but having an environment where your thoughts are welcomed, challenged and valued often gives rise to other ideas; what is more exciting that watching great business bloom in front of your eyes, where it is not the case of the individual, but rather the adventure? This attitude, if implemented from the tea lady to the CEO, means that everyone feels their responsibility to the business; they have become Leaders Without Title.

  11. Dhananjayan says:

    Conflicts will bring best out of human being as it gives new dimensional to our thinking process. All “if not” and “what if” will come into picture that makes thinking in different dimensions. this is very much interesting rather than a one way traffic. Loved ur post Robin keep posting different ideas which I like to conflict, if possible :-)

  12. Sunil Bhaskar says:

    Dear Robin,

    I still confused about your “no man” statement. Is it better to be a No Man? If you start saying No to everything, isn’t there a negative-energy effect? Is there any of your books refering about No vs Yes? Please advise

    Regards, Sunil

  13. Majda says:

    So true ! This reminded me of Mad Men main character Don Draper who always pushes the companies he works with to challenge their ideas and no to do things repeatedly just because “they’ve always done it this way”.
    Great post Robin, thank you !

  14. talvar says:

    I absolutely agree with the idea, but to put it into action is very difficult.
    especially when the bosses feel that no one apart from them can be right.

    For the “no man” concept to work, the bosses have to accept that concept and let
    it grow in their organisation.

    Good luck to the “NO MEN”. I have tried this for a while in my organisation and it
    didn’t always work

  15. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robin Sharma, Monia Piraki, shanmugananda, Ian Duvenage, jorge praia and others. jorge praia said: PICK FIGHTS FAST: Yes, indeed, most of us dread conflict as much as a dental visit or a speech in front of a roo… http://bit.ly/fQf384 […]

  16. srishti says:

    sir i really could not understand this.i don’t kow why.pl help.

  17. Rick says:

    I fully understand that “healthy conflict” encourages better ideas, but will it help the working environment? Constant conflict (even if it’s the healthy kind) can lead to many people disagreeing and keeping resentments for co-workers. Especially if the person in question has the job of disagreeing with every idea (Devil’s Advocate). Where is the balance? We need the conflict, but we also need a good working environment, not a fighting platform.

    Just a thought.

  18. Paula says:

    Based on the question for discussion…the concept of “conflict” is how we as individuals perceive it and define it. Thus both, the “no people” or “yes men” have potential to create our conflict, struggle or fight. Conflict is a time for cautious yielding. A time, without judgment of “good” or “bad”, to embrace the entire experience with an open heart and an open mind, to find our Truth in the matter, then flow the rest. Now newly expanded, begin moving forward in our new understanding of what it means for us.

  19. Chris says:

    In my personal and work life, I question everything I do, and try to improve everything I do, kaizen style. I (mostly – I’m only human) like people in work and life to question me. In listening, questioning and explaining, I get the chance then to hone my vision and often, to find I’m in the wrong or could do better. Once a problem is visible, I can move towards its solution. I’m lucky. I work in software development, an arena where requirements and the tools used to deliver them change almost constantly. I’ve been fortunate enough to see most projects succeed, and (even more) fortunate to see some fail. I think failure is caused by fear. The biggest fear is that the team is going down the wrong road and needs to stop, go back, and, sometimes, start again. This fear is so strong that you can end up with a team full of people not listening to the warning signs or worse, a team that hides bad news. A good team is one in which any member of that team can call a halt to the proceedings and everyone else in the team will listen, including the so called team leader. Never mind leadership without title, you need a team without a leader, a team that doesn’t need a leader, a team where every member is a leader: a listener, a thinker, a tryer. That team is filled with honest, brave and caring people: humans with humanity.

  20. Ayush says:

    The idea is good since most of us become complacent and start doing things “The Way It was always done”.. But instead of Pick Up fights, maybe the the mantra should be ” Challenge the Idea” or ‘ Challenge Status Quo”.

  21. Dr. Hetal says:

    A Good Idea alone never works… but it needs good execution also… so for getting success i think smart people will reflect on their own Idea and will definitely change it , if change is needed…..
    So keeping a person for challenging idea might turn out to be Waste of time i guess and some time it will be difficult to keep a check that conflic is healthy only… so may be this is not a very great concept

  22. robin says:

    i read your thoughtful comments. thanks. Chris, yours especially spoke to me this morning

  23. Adnan says:

    Hey.. Robin, this was truly brilliant as expected from you. However, there is something more i would like to hear from you and discuss my views too. Can i have ur email id?

  24. Ananda Sivan S says:


    Unfortunately 90% of the the so called managers would like to have around them the YES people. It is always healthy to have healthy criticism and healthy countering for the sake of improvement. This is thought provoking.


    Ananda Sivan.S

  25. robin says:

    Ananda, i agree

  26. Naveen says:

    Regards from Sri Lanka. It seems a super concept to passionately and constructively pin point areas of improvement and “flaws” in ideas and strategies. But it must be noted that a certain degree of control becomes imperative because corporate culture is such that the critic may do so just for the sake of it and thus lose sight of the overall objective. Such fault finding may tend to demotivate as well as create a sense of hostility between employees. It may be very difficult to diffuse such a situation, should it arise as it will breed mistrust. However if the right person is recruited to play the role of critic and the employees trust his opinions to bne honest and constructive the company stands to to gain immensely as Mr. Sharma has stated.

  27. Ayesha Tabassum says:

    An interesting way to put across the idea of innovation and killing the monotony of the jobs we are doing. Most of us love what we do. But when it gets monotonous we get bored, so picking fights fast brings in the idea to challenge things we’ve been religiously doing ever since we began working… thanks for sharing this inherent idea that we all had forgotten about.

  28. Prakash says:

    Say Yes to No Men…. say No to No ????

  29. Catherine Soplet says:

    Constructed capacity for disagreement and innovation looks like the contained explosions which drive piston engines.

  30. Azeem says:

    Does the “No Man” has intellect? or is he doing it just because he had been told to do so?

    I think every human is gifted with an intellectual creed by birth and best to question is the person him/herself. We’ve to be strong enough in our thoughts to say “No” to all that we do. After all we’re learning creatures!

  31. Raveen Brar says:

    Great idea for the MANAGERS, CEO’s, LEADERS who lead without the title and above all THE PARENTS to implement . Lets ask ourself; If you are a manager of a department, do you do this with your team, If you are a CEO, do you do it with your team and if you are married, Do you do this with our spouse or kids? The idea is to bring everyone’s concerns on the table and get everyone’s buy in to find the solution and the achieve the Goals or the Results we are looking for. So that everyone is giving their 100% to achieve the results.

  32. Kamal aziz. says:

    The yeses and the nos depend much on the senario.Listening the no’s to strenghten the yes is a good practices.
    The yeses man may feel content and protecting his position.The leader is still the one who has to make the final decision.

    Leader very often a dreamer but a practical doer- intuition and instict
    is one of the leader tools to evaluate and making decision.

  33. Nishant says:

    more than yes men and no people, i think a leader needs to create a culture of truth speaking… of speaking one’s mind honestly and plainly… one does not need to contradict or challenge an idea for the sake of challenging an idea.. that can be as counter productive as agreeing to everything the manager/leader says… everybody is different and therefore has a different perspective… if a leader can inspire his team to look at an idea and ask themselves ‘is this a good idea, what is good and bad about this idea’ and share their actual honest views based on their unique perspective, and then genuinely consider everyone’s views, he would have build a great team…

  34. Darshan says:

    When i read this idea, the only word that came in my mind was EXACTLY! Whenever someone goes against our ideas, it is our duty to make them understand our point of view, (if necessary)!!! but critics truly make us rethink over r ideas….until a point that they become error-free(absolute best)!!! Such world-class ideas r used by the us,the people of the LWT COMMUNITY!!!

  35. […] this morning, reading Robin Sharma’s blog, he had an article PICK FIGHTS FAST – very catchy title he emphasizes not to fall in love with your idea blindly. He says maybe […]

  36. maria says:

    I do believe that it is really better to be surrounded by people who could honestly say NO and stand on their ground than to be with lukewarm people who just say YES because they don’t want to be challenge or they could not stand firm on their ground.

  37. Muhammad Safdar Afridi says:

    This “Yes man” concept will be cerainly challenged,i found ulternate ways when somebody refused to me.Its good i learnt many lesson along with correction of mistakes ,Its very good sum time ,U WILL CORRECT UR BASICS BY THIS WAY.

  38. pranav mahajan says:

    i honestly dont think so………that allowing a group of people to just challenge every idea for a better idea is a good idea………….coz in business we have to take decisions abruptly…..n then stick with that decisions till end……..if we keep on changing them ………we will lead nowhere……..no matter how great the idea is,it is bound to receive criticism….

  39. pranav mahajan says:

    sorry, may be m wrong but this is what i feel

  40. Very good article. And some great comments by many intelligen-t people. Get the money out is a fantastic idea, too. Campaign finance should be front-and–center in every debate and platform this coming year. Unfortunat-ely, IMO, while Independen-ts would carry that torch, will the other half of the voting public (dems and repubs … TPers??) do the same way? Or will they continue to vote for the two big parties that haven’t done anything BEFORE now?lovetravelingtips

  41. Janani Sivakumaran says:

    I’m currently writing up my PhD thesis, at the end of which I will have a VIVA to defend my findings. I chose two leading examiners in the field, with a reputation of being tough, when most people advised me to pick ‘easy’ examiners.
    I didn’t understand why I would. I love what I do, I am constantly striving to learn and improve, I am sure I will be asked some tough questions I may not have thought of, this is how I learn, I understand my subject better.
    I know what I know, only when someone else challenges me will I know what I don’t know

Leave a Reply