Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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The Path of Agreement!


Last week, we introduced the concept of agreement in The Meeting of the Minds – BLOG – www.akesatia.com. Today, we will go a little deeper by examining an example of agreement in action.

The path of agreement

Before we go further, I will let you in on something. 😊 The subject of agreement fascinates me because when one seeks to reach an agreement in a group, one tends to meet another who deliberately seeks to disagree. Earlier in my career, when I encountered this, I was disturbed and assumed one who was hell-bent on disagreeing was solely seeking attention. Sadly, in some instances, this is the case! However, as I sought input from individuals who challenged my thinking, I learned to adopt a different perspective! Here is what I learned: The goal of listening is understanding, not approbation. Therefore, when another seeks to throw in their two cents and be heard, allow them! You never know what you might learn. Also, as iron sharpens iron, constructive and respectful disagreement assesses, refines, and strengthens an idea.

Furthermore, as we all know, one can be required to comply, but no one can coerce another to agreeBecause agreement is more than an utterance of the word, yes, and a firm handshake. To agree is a choice one makes, and for this reason, we often seek agreement before we reach it.

Naturally, this would lead one to ask: What enables agreement? To uncover this, let us learn from a company many might think of as America’s Favorite Warehouse!

America’s Favorite Warehouse

When we think of America’s Favorite Warehouse, the thought might evoke images of $1.50 hot dog and soda combos, rotisserie chickens, and oversized everything! When you hear or read this, what company comes to mind? Okay, let me take us out of suspense!
As you may have guessed, we are referring to none other than Costco but let us not spend time discussing oversized food servings, hot dogs, and rotisserie chickens! Costco is currently in the news for a much more critical reason than these, and my interest in the warehouse giant goes beyond its merchandise.

Costco holds a special place in my heart because 20+ years ago, while on vacation, my wonderful sister, Jessie, introduced me to the store! Jessie was a fan and frequently took the family to shop at the original Washington State headquarters for Costco in Kirkland, Washington. When I first stepped foot in Costco, I did not know what to make of it because everything about it seemed foreign! – Growing up in other parts of the world, I learned that exclusivity and limited supply signal quality. For this reason, I struggled to see how clothing or food sold in bulk to consumers could be top quality. Additionally, when we went to Costco, I felt like I was walking into a circus with oversized everything! Also, it was entertaining to see customers of all ages flock to food samples like bees swarming around a honeycomb.  

But, years later, when I moved to the United States, I gained a deeper appreciation for Costco from a business perspective: Costco is one of the original big-box retailers, and the path to holding the most senior position at the behemoth will be a case study in business schools for years to come.
From an external purview, the approach Costco CEOs take to assume the position exemplifies the pursuit of agreement: It is an ardent attempt to ensure the body does not reject the organ.

To contextualize this, let us take a brief tour down the history lane of Costco!

Going down memory lane

Did you know?
The first Costco warehouse opened in Seattle, Washington, in 1983. To date, there have been just two CEOs, and in January 2024, the third CEO will take the reins. Costco operations chief Vachris to become CEO as Jelinek exits | Reuters First, it stands out that in 40 years, a company of its size and revenue has only had 2 CEOs, especially given that the average CEO tenure among the S&P 500 companies in 2022 was 7.6 years. CEO Tenure Rates (harvard.edu)

The long tenure of Costco CEOs is as intriguing as their career journey and how the baton is received and passed.

Passing the baton

A CEO transition tests the ability of the organization to pass the baton. – Like a relay race, when the transition is successful, victory is in sight, but when unsuccessful, success inches farther away. – For the CEO and the organization! So, what is required to pass the baton successfully?

We are most accustomed to passing batons in athletic events, specifically relay races. Successfully passing the baton requires:
 – capable runners or qualified talent in business,
 – the right gear and equipment or tools in organizations,
 – a proficient athletic coach or leadership coach and mentors,
– right timing,
 – and strict training.
Indeed, the above are all critical for facilitating a smooth transition. However, even when all of the above are present, there is one aspect that can derail the most valiant efforts. – It is the absence of agreement, aka the lack of a meeting of the minds in a common intention. 

Reaching Agreement

As we all know, agreement is vital in partnership, and in the absence of agreement, to get what one desires, many resort to manipulating and coercing others. – This is a misguided approach!
Conversely, pursuing agreement unlocks the opportunity for synergy: a state where the combined power of a group of people or things working together is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately.

Many of us might have seen the product of synergy in a strong relationship, personally or professionally. But the potent combo is agreement and synergy. When agreement and synergy are present, there is alignment on the goal, cooperation in determining the direction of travel, and a high level of commitment from each person. The pursuit of agreement and synergy is apparent in how Costco handles its CEO transitions.

To better understand, let us explore two integral aspects: grasping the ethos and making time count.

Grasping the ethos

To grasp the ethos of an organization is to know its distinguishing characteristics as manifested in its beliefs, aspirations, and practices. 

Knowing the ethos of an organization is a desire of a job applicant, employee, business partner, and many customers. But what enables one to grasp the ethos of an organization? Let us consider the example of Costco! – The Costco CEO grasps the ethos of Costco before they assume the CEO role because of how they dwell in the organization. Case in point: The current Costco CEO, Craig Jelinek, has been with the company since 1984. His first job at Costco was as a warehouse manager. After doing several roles at the company and working his way up the ranks in 2012, he succeeded the founder, Jim Sinegal. Yep! Your math is correct! The current CEO, Craig Jelinek, was at the company for 28 years before he became CEO! It seems he spent a lifetime at the company!
Unironically, the same could be said about the incoming CEO, Ron Vachris, a 40-year veteran who is currently President, and Chief Operating Officer. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek’s Life and Career, in Photos (businessinsider.com)

I realize all the talk about long journeys to the top and working your way up the ranks might give some a case of severe heartburn! This reaction is understandable if one assumes working your way up means drudgingly watching the clock go tick-tock. But what was Vachris doing at Costco during the last 40 years?

Making time count

Vachris, who has been at Costco for over 40 years, started as a forklift driver and served in every major role related to the business operations and merchandising activities of Costco. As we all know, watching time go by rarely seems beneficial, but what we do with time is how we can derive value. In the case of Vachris, assumedly, by performing various roles, he gained a deep understanding of the pain points, as well as the distinguishing beliefs and guiding principles of Costco.
Essentially, he learned the heartbeat and ethos of the organization.

Moving Forward

Irrefutably, when a CEO steps down, the change in tide can lead the organization down a stormy path. However, such a change can also propel the organization to new heights, especially when ego and superfluous changes are kept at bay. Costco seems to be on a promising path in this next phase of its journey. We wish them la buona fortuna, aka good luck!

Friend, as we all know, understanding enables agreement. In this vein, as you continue your day, ask yourself: What is one step I can take to deeply understand the dynamics, challenges, and opportunities of other roles in my organization?
Surely, this understanding will serve you well!

Until next time, have a great week!

For you and to you,



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