The 10-C Approach to Pushback when the Boss is Involved and Stakes are High

Pushback makes you relevant and useful in high-stakes situations.


Poor pushback:

  1. Emotional heat. Drama is distraction, even offense, to top leaders.
  2. Grudges. You look narrow and small when you can’t let go when pushback fails. You’re going to lose some arguments.
  3. Personal attacks.
  4. Preference over fact. It’s about research, data, and information, not personal preferences.

Pushback matters most when it’s hard to give.

The 10-C approach for pushback:

#1. Conviction. Believe in something. Never push-back as a default response.

Always push for better when pushing back.

#2. Courage. Conviction without courage turns into complaining and backstabbing.

Courage to push back includes:

  1. Careful preparation. Bravado is the result of wishful thinking.
  2. Tested assumptions.
  3. Clear points of defense.
  4. Willingness to lose. 

Courage moves organizations forward. Fear defeats talent.

#3. Candor. Dancing around the pole of veracity irritates people in authority.

Leaders don’t like waiting for punchlines.

#4. Compassion. Seek the highest good with useful kindness.

  1. Be sensitive to appearances. How does pushback make others look?
  2. Choose private over public.
  3. Give respect to earn respect.

#5. Competence. Push back in your areas of expertise.

#6. Consistency.

  1. Consistently embrace humility.
  2. Live by principles, not conveniences.
  3. Practice emotional steadiness.

#7. Connection. Strive for deeper connection because of – not in spite of – pushing back. Fallout from pushing back poorly hinders careers and hampers relationships.

Relationship is the foundation for successful pushback.

#8. Collaboration. How can you include others, even while pushing back?

#9. Curiosity. Stay open.

  1. Who might have insights?
  2. Who is impacted by your perspective?
  3. Who might help you push back successfully?

#10. Clarity of purpose. Why are you pushing back in the first place? Does it matter?

You’re bound for success if you skillfully push back in high-stakes situations and top leaders are involved.

What ideas might you add to this list?

What suggestions or warnings do you have for pushing back?