Oswald Letter

Let your voice be heard in 2014

debateby Dan Oswald

As we kick off 2014, it’s my hope for you that you have the courage of your convictions both in your personal life and at work. I hope you will speak and act according to your beliefs, even in the face of disagreement or criticism.

We live in a world where being “politically correct” has become so important that we often fail to say what we believe. This belief that language and practices that could offend someone’s sensibilities (especially about race, gender, religion, and politics) should be eliminated has caused us to avoid disagreement and debate in general. And a world—or workplace—without disagreement and debate is a much less interesting and progressive place.

“Convictions, in the end, they can be dangerous, but a world without them is just kind of an awful kind of gray, amorphous mass.”—Bono

So my wish for you this year, especially at work, is that you have the courage of your convictions. That you be willing to say and stand up for what you believe. Too many people attempt to figure out what the boss wants to hear or what the prevailing attitude will be instead of saying what they think. A well-reasoned argument or a well-researched position, even one that’s unpopular, can lead to discussions and, yes, debates that might uncover a new and better solution.

“It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.”—Robert Green Ingersoll

It’s easy to go along with the crowd. It’s easy to gauge which way the winds are blowing and make sure you get on the winning side. But if you want to make a difference, if you really want to make a contribution at work, then have the courage of your convictions. Believe in yourself and your ideas and be willing to stand up for them. The big breakthroughs come from people who are willing to risk being wrong because they understand the rewards if they are right.

“He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions.”—James Freeman Clarke

Sometimes it takes one person who is willing to stand up for what she believes to get things started and get others to follow her lead. But challenging the status quo, truly speaking up for what you believe, won’t always be readily accepted. Those accustomed to holding the power, calling the shots, and influencing the group will likely try to quiet your voice because it challenges their authority. This is when you need to hold fast to your convictions and have the courage to follow through.

“When the pressure comes, preferences give way while convictions hold firm.”—Edwin Louis Cole

There are those who will argue that the discussion and debate of ideas are a waste of time. But to me, allowing intelligent people to contribute their thoughts, challenge the premise being discussed, and offer alternative ideas and approaches can lead to vast improvements and even the occasional breakthrough. Does it take longer to discuss and debate the idea? You bet. But often (not always) it’s time well spent because the process produces a better outcome.

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”—Margaret Heffernan

Maybe you work in a place where having your own ideas and, more important, sharing them are frowned upon. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the opportunity to voice your opinions or that if you do, they aren’t being heard. If that’s the case, you need to try to change your workplace because any organization without open and honest debate and sharing of ideas is weaker as a result. And if you can’t change your workplace, you need to find one where ideas are openly discussed and debated because strong leaders understand the value the debate over ideas brings.

“I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.”—Margaret Thatcher

So my wish for you is that you have the courage of your convictions this year. That you stand up for what you believe and let your voice be heard. I hope you have a wonderful and prosperous 2014!