In our recent conversation with Lattice CEO Jack Altman and CPO (and Pro member) Cara Allamano about what makes their relationship successful, Altman highlighted two different types of disagreements that the two have learned to work through: “Tactical disagreements are the easy kind, because usually somebody is missing a premise,” he said. “If there’s high enough trust, you just work through the problem out loud and you should be able to get to the root of it.”

Philosophical disagreements, he added, “are where the interesting stuff happens,” Altman said, citing the example of Allamano’s preference to maintain flexible working arrangements against his preference for full-time in-person work. “[She said,] ‘If you would love to be in office five days a week and everybody worked in San Francisco, here's what we would have to go through to get there. Does that sound worth it to you?’ And if that doesn't sound worth it to me, then the whole thing's moot anyway,” he recalled. 

Their path to reaching alignment from disagreement mirrors a process described in a recent Academy of Management Journal paper as “heedful challenging,” in which someone becomes a leader’s trusted “right-hand partner” by successfully pushing back on their arguments or desires despite the unequal power distribution between the two.

“[It’s] a process where you are challenging the leader in a way that is grounded in a deep understanding of their style as well as the issue that aligns with the organization,” explains study co-author Christina Lacerenza, an assistant professor of organizational leadership and information analytics at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. 

While the study focused on the relationship between CEOs and chiefs of staff, CHROs and other people leaders “can use our findings as a way to develop a stronger relationship with their CEO,” Lacerenza noted. More on how: 

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