Do you remember sitting in a grade school classroom fearing the teacher would call upon you to answer a question, or explain an assignment, from the previous evening? Boy, I sure do, almost like it was yesterday! Perhaps, the memories are so vivid for me, because in my recollection, it seems I gave the wrong answer far more often than the correct answer.
I could not sink any lower into my desk when I was wrong. My hope was to become invisible to all the eyes staring in my direction, as what seemed like a multitude of students, frantically waved their hands in the air to offer the correct and obvious answer. The feelings of embarrassment, shame and stupidity seemed to cut like a knife into my self-confidence and self-worth.
On the other side of that same coin, nothing felt better than the dopamine surging through my brain cells when I chanced upon a correct answer. Wow, what a great relief and feeling that was! It seemed to be a kind of “drug-induced high.” There was a warm glow that seemed to last the entire day, or at least the entire class. What a great feeling that was! That feeling could certainly be addicting. Being “right” also fed a hungry and growing ego and the need to “be right” more often.
I suspect I am not the only person who can relate to those contrasting experiences. Can it be the same mix of emotions, fears, endorphins, and dopamine that still drives my subconscious behaviors today as an adult? How about your behavior? Even as mature adults, those experiences drive a powerful need for us to be “right” in the eyes of others, sometimes with disastrous results in our most important relationships.
Simply put, it feels good to feel right about something. I am fully aware my ego gets a significant boost when someone asks for, and/or validates, my opinion regardless of the topic. Doesn’t it feel good when someone asks for your opinion, or seeks your advice? This is perhaps an important leadership lesson to explore in a future MMM.
My purpose today is to point out the “dark side” of a naturally normal human need “to be right” in our discussions with those we love and those we lead.
Getting it right, is far more important than being right. – Our son shared the quote above with me a week or two ago in response to the MMM entitled, “Are You Poisoning the Pool?” He is absolutely correct; getting something right is far more important to our collective success and long-term results than any one person getting to say they were right about anything.
To get it right, means we must invite others into the dialogue to discuss, debate, challenge and learn from other perspectives. Diversity of thought, style, and approach matters. Collective wisdom is paramount.
An attitude of “rightness” shuts down conversation and reduces engagement. Projecting an “unyielding rightness” often coincides with a perceived message of superiority by the speaker. When people are made to feel inferior by another’s “rightness” they are likely to become defensive and stop listening; either an argument will pursue, or someone will “leave or poison the pool.” Either way, the exploration of the “very best right” will come to an end.
Doing what is easy is not often right and doing what is right is not often easy. – This is a parental philosophy my wife and I tried to use while raising our children. Our world faces tough challenges and wonderful opportunities for improvement, none of them easy. Solutions that seem easy typically address only symptoms of a problem, surface level issues, and not the root cause. I’m fond of saying, “All of the easy problems in the world have been solved a long time ago. What remains are difficult, challenging, complex issues that will require new thinking by lots of people in lots of places.”
If our egos get in the way of leadership effectiveness, it does not matter “how right we are, or were.” – We need people to be engaged enough in the problems to be willing to be a part of the solution. We need people to care, to get involved, and to make a positive difference in their part of the world. We need to turn people on and help everyone to be their best and to give their best. I submit that only happens when we’re “our best selves” first and lead the way. Isn’t that what leadership is, leading the way?
How will you invite people into a conversation and be part of a solution for the problems you see? How will you love, live, or lead differently or better this week?
Related article: Click here to read: Humility, a Foundational Quality
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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- “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman
- “Ego is the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.” – Ryan Holiday
- “You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.” – George Clooney
- “We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.” – Rabindranath Tagore
- “None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.” – Benjamin Whichcote
- “A bad day for your ego is a great day for your soul.” – Jillian Michaels
- “The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it.” – Criss Jami
- “Destroy your illusions so you can see reality. Destroy your fears so you can take risks. Destroy your ego so you can see life.” – Maxime Lagacé
- “Ego is false confidence; self-respect is true confidence.” – Naval Ravikant
- “Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.” – John Boyd
- “Always keep your ego in check and not be afraid to listen. Listening is a great art form.” – Clint Eastwood