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SPI 696: The Toxicity of “Agree to Disagree”

When you agree to disagree with someone, you’re just avoiding the issue. But there’s a better and more productive way to handle conflict.

At SPI, we disagree and commit. My great friend and business partner, Matt Gartland, taught me this when we started working together. It’s been an absolute game-changer ever since!

In this episode, I explore the benefits of this powerful mindset and share the methods we use to implement it. Matt and I were even featured in an article on this topic in the January 2023 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine.

But this approach felt counterintuitive at first. If you’re anything like me, you prefer to avoid endless fighting. Agreeing to disagree is the civilized way to move on, right? But does that ever solve anything?

In fact, many of our most popular products wouldn’t exist if we didn’t commit despite having doubts. Our fantastic Unstuck newsletter is just one example. Creating weekly emails that people would look forward to receiving seemed like a crazy idea to me. But, trusting my team’s vision and trying my best, we pulled it off!

So listen in on today’s session to learn how to use this mindset shift for incredible results!

SPI 696: The Toxicity of “Agree to Disagree”

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he’s a big fan of The Last of Us, and he is never even played the video game before. Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: Hey, it’s Pat here and happy Friday. I wanted to do something a little bit different today, Matt, the CEO of SPI Media, my great friend and partner, we’re featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and not just on their website in an actual print version. Here, listen, those are the pages turning just to prove it.

Although I could have just flipped through anything and you would’ve had to believe me. But here’s what I’m gonna do. In the January to February, 2023 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine, we are featured in an article called Do Not Agree to Disagree. You’ve all heard that phrase, right? Oh, let’s just agree to disagree.

No. This is actually coming from Matt. It’s something that he’s implemented within the team, and I just wanted to read this for you, sort of like a little, like a little ebook or audiobook, but instead it’s a magazine. It’s an audio magazine article. Anyway, shout out to Jason Pfeiffer, who is over at Entrepreneur.

He’s the editor-in-chief at Entrepreneur Magazine and he wrote this article up after we had an interview on his podcast, which is really cool. And there’s a nice little picture of Matt towering over me. He’s much taller than I am. Actually, he may have been, wait, is he? He’s like bending his knees little to get down to my level.

Matt, you don’t have to do that. Thank you. I appreciate you. Okay. So I’m, I’m gonna read the article for you and we’ll talk a little bit about it at the end. It’s just one page here. Do not agree to disagree. That’s just called avoiding the issue. There’s a better way to handle disagreements and for the guys behind Smart Passive Income, it became their guiding principle, by Jason Pfeiffer.

When Pat Flynn disagreed, this is weird that it’s like third person cuz obviously I’m Pat Flynn. But anyway, I’m gonna read it just as is. When Pat Flynn disagreed with people, he knew what to do, agree to disagree, and move on. Isn’t that how civilized people act, he thought? Value productivity over endless fighting.

But back then, Flynn was a solopreneur running his company, Smart Passive income. Eventually, it grew beyond his abilities. So we talked with frequent collaborator, Matt Gartland, about forming a new company. Gartland came with a lot more partnership experience. He’d been a founder six other times, so he had seen what worked and what didn’t.

That’s why when Flynn and Gartland eventually disagreed on something, Gartland wouldn’t let Flynn simply move on. They could not agree to disagree. He said they must instead disagree and commit. That creates a healthy relationship, Garland says. It was revolutionary to me, Flynn says. The phase disagree and commit has been around since the 1980s.

It was more recently popularized by Jeff Bezos. In short, it means be free to disagree with someone as a decision is being made. But once the decision is made, everyone must commit to executing it. As Gartland puts it, I’ll state my disagreement and I need the safety to do that, but I support your authority to make this decision and I’m committed to your success.

Why is this better? Because when done right, it fosters honesty and creates space for new ideas. Also, Gartland says, nobody ever truly agrees to disagree. They just secretly root for the other person to fail so they can say, I told you so. You have to play for high stakes, Garland says, and recognize what’s really at risk.

Disagreements aren’t about any individual decision. They’re about relationships and livelihoods. He thinks about his relationship with Flynn, the responsibility they have for their nine employees and the services they offer their customers. If we screw this up and experience founder fallout, then this just goes kaboom.

He says, you don’t gamble with that stuff. For example, Flynn was once skeptical of email newsletters. He thought they were fine for marketing purposes, but nothing else. I’m the face of the company. I’m closest to our audience, and I know that most of them don’t Wake up in the morning and look forward to reading a newsletter, Flynn remembers telling their team. Garland and everyone else disagreed. They saw the resurgence of email newsletters coming and thought Flynn should write one. Had they simply agreed to disagree, Flynn would have refused to write a newsletter. The team would’ve believed it was a mistake and that would be that.

But instead, Flynn remained open to the discussion and the team felt empowered to keep pushing. Eventually they the issue as a design thinking challenge. How might you create a newsletter that your audience would actually wanna open as soon as it came into their inbox? The team mask Flynn. He liked this challenge.

I knew I’d have to give it another chance in order to honor them and their disagreement, he says. To his surprise, he was proud of the results. They launched the newsletter and it’s since become one of the brand’s most popular products. That is just side note, the Unstuck Newsletter, which you could check out smartpassiveincome.com/unstuck.

Final paragraph here. That moment helped Flynn understand the power of disagreeing and committing by focusing on the higher stakes he reminded himself that everyone on the team had the same mission to make great products for their audience, knowing that the team was there and that they’re also looking out for the same people I’m looking out for, allowed me to see it from a different angle.

He says, then they ultimately agreed to agree. The end.

So thank you to Jason Pfeiffer and also Entrepreneur Magazine for that. That was awesome. Also, make sure to check out Jason’s podcast and all the other amazing podcasts on The Entrepreneur Network, which we are proudly on here at Smart Passive Income as well.

But that article was really great, short and sweet and to the point, and I love this. It makes me think of agreements and disagreements in not just the work environment, but also in the home and personal environment with friends perhaps. Right, how amazing would it be to, yes, perhaps still disagree with a spouse, for example, but then commit to still help them, to serve them, to help them get the results they want.

Without that sort of evil thinking that we have, which is like, oh, I hope this fails because I wanna, I wanna say I told you so. Right, like it’s such a healthier way to go about it in a healthy way to often, especially if these are great relationships, to get that kind of love and support back, right? It’s like, Hey, let’s trust each other kind of thing.

And that newsletter example is so important because that newsletter is now accounted for several hundreds of thousands of dollars now in both advertising revenue and direct revenue for things like our All Access Pass and, and more. So again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/unstuck if you’d like to get unstuck.

So I want you to think about in your life how you might use this method moving forward, right? Not agree to disagree and perhaps even teach this lesson to your employees or to those who you work with, your colleagues, coworkers, but also your spouse and the other loved ones around you, maybe even your kids, having your kids understand that they might disagree with you, but you still need their support and vice versa.

Again, it has to go both ways. Right? That’s what I love about the relationship I have with Matt. We’re always open and honest with each other. We feel that and we trust each other. So that idea of disagree, but commit. We’re committed to each other. We’re committed to the success of, in this case, SPI. My wife and I we’re committed to each other, but of course for the whole family and we, we support each other in that way too.

So, you know, it’s not like we just agree to disagree and move on, which is avoiding the situation and hoping for the other to fail. We disagree. We realize that. But we’re committed to helping. That’s your lesson for the day. So thank you so much Again, this was the Entrepreneur magazine, January to February, 2023 edition.

And what page is that on in case you ever find it like a, if you, if you happen to find this at like a Barnes Noble or something, gimme a picture on Twitter. Number, page number 16. The back of this particular edition has the Franchise 500, which one is right for you? I was a little confused because it’s sort of like, A cover on both sides, one’s upside down.

Anyway, I appreciate you. Thank you to Matt for teaching me that lesson. Thank you to my team as well. Thank you for being you, and I look forward to serving you in the next episode. Till then, peace out. Cheers. And, as always, team SPI for the win. And team Flynn from win. Cheers.

Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!


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