Why is the third opinion so important? Good leaders
faced with tough issues get a lot of input from all kinds of people
around them. They get people who hopefully have the expertise and
the resources to help solve the problem, people who have insight
into what's going on and who have a vested interest in the outcome.
Those are called second opinions. If you're a CEO, you want your
head of marketing, your head of sales, and your head of
manufacturing to have incredibly passionate vested interests in the
outcomes of decisions. Most of the work of leadership is getting
the best team of second opinions around you and marshaling them to
go somewhere together.
It turns out that for the executive - whether the top person or
middle person or early leader - only being in dialogue with people
who have a vested interest makes you isolated in certain kinds of
thinking. It's very important to also have access to a trusted
network of third-opinion advisors so that you do the full realm of
thinking. The third opinion is where you seek the right expertise
from people with an outside perspective and no vested interest in
the outcome. That's the distinction. For many people I work with,
it's not that I'm better than their people. But I help them analyze
complex choices, and they know they don't have to figure out my
spin or agenda.
So you can't completely trust your colleagues? When
you're talking to second opinions, it's very hard to sort out what
people are saying in their own self-interest and what they're
saying that's really objective. I'm not talking about bad and
devious people. We're all organizational people, and it's not wise
in organizational life to always tell the unvarnished truth.