Have you come across a HiPPO in a recent meeting? This acronym stands for ‘The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’. This refers to the impact of rank or hierarchy in a meeting where people will often fall silent, deferring, for various reasons, to the opinion of the person with the most power and highest salary.
HiPPOs can get in the way of good decision-making. Having a HiPPO in the room can dominate a meeting as it often carries a lot more weight than other voices. People may feel too scared to challenge a dominant opinion, even though they may fundamentally disagree with it, while others may pay lip service and be eager to please and toe the line. The owner of the dominant voice runs the risk of believing they alone have the best ideas and miss the opportunity of hearing the valuable insights or ideas that come from different voices in the room. A leader may be aware of the impact they have on others but it’s not easy to create a culture where people feel its safe to question a HiPPO without fear of reprisal.
The interesting thing for me is that HiPPOs only exist because of the relationships in the room, with everyone in a sort of collusion in keeping them present. It seems to me that it is vitally important for everyone to be aware of the impact they have on others and how one reacts in silencing oneself in these dynamics.
Taking ownership of the parts we play in creating HiPPOs is the only way to stop them turning into elephants.
Was there a HiPPO in the room today? What was the part you played in keeping it alive?