Reading the news today, I’m sure you can identify many leaders that seem more worried about being right instead of getting it right – for their people, for their organizations, for their purpose. Last week, we launched our new fierce survey results, and I was not surprised that we found more than 71% of professionals surveyed believe neither their companies nor their government acts in their best interest.
Acting in others’ best interests requires deeper understanding of needs and goals. And when you really step back for a moment as an employee and a voter, you should know that it is not possible for your leaders to know everything on their own. They can’t possibly make the best decisions without engaging and learning along the way. That’s why they must focus outward. They shouldn’t focus on “being right”, having the savviest answer, or the most logical argument. They need to focus on the people affected – directly and indirectly – and getting the results needed for them to prosper.
Short-sighted leaders often feel that their job is to bring the most brilliant ideas to the table and validate why they are in the position they are. We see this in the political debates as well. The issue is that while leaders may want to be the stars, it really shouldn’t be about them.
In fact, when I talk with executives about their high potential programs, one of the hardest transitions for new leaders is to measure self-worth by the team’s accomplishments rather than their own. For high performers, it is a huge transition, because they are used to attracting attention and accolades for their results – now they have to lean on their team. Politicians often measure their worth by poll numbers, and perhaps they should measure by their citizens’ accomplishments.
Leaders today must be comfortable not knowing certain things. They must seek information and differing perspectives from all angles of an issue.
Here are three quick reminders to shift to a “getting it right” mentality in a meeting or conversation:
- Use “and” instead of “but”. You may have a very different opinion than someone else in the conversation. Instead of using “but” after validating someone’s opinion, use "and". Example: “Yes I see your view, and I feel differently” instead of “Yes I see your view, but I feel differently.” Hear the difference? “And” is more inclusive.
- Take deep breaths. If you find yourself feeling triggered, consciously take more breaths. It helps calm you and think about the larger picture. Your ego might creep in if you feel someone is undermining your position. However, this is when it is critical for you to remember your real job is to understand and get curious – not wave your position around.
- Ask “what else?” This is a Fierce concept I’ve discussed before. In our coaching model, we instruct people to ask “what else” at least 3 times in different parts of the conversation. Each time you ask, you are going deeper into the question. You are exploring, which is what you need to do to further understand.
I know, I know. It’s human nature to want to be right. It feels good. It is validating. And at the end of the day, being a leader who is respected and makes the best possible decision feels even better than always being right.