What’s wrong with wanting to be right?

I currently have the privilege of participating in the Stagen Leadership Academy’s Advanced Leadership Program.  The name of the program is “The Dragon’s Gap” which refers to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.  Each of us in the program is encouraged to embark on our own hero’s journey.  The first step is “the call to adventure.”

In the Stagen program, we are assigned a coach who we meet with once a month to talk about our progress.  I had shared with my coach one of my goals for the year is to be more intentional about savoring life.  He asked: “What gets in the way?”  I shared with him my natural tendency is toward achievement.  I like to set goals and achieve them.  Then, it’s on to the next goal.  So, I explained I’m focusing on slowing down and appreciating each moment.  

“What else,” he asked.

Another thought appeared: “My desire to be right.”  

Ouch.   

Slowing down and “smelling the roses” was my default response.  This insight cut deeper.

It struck me in many situations, I show up already knowing the answer.  My unstated goal is to “win the conversation.”  To persuade others I’m right.  Worse, because of my title (CEO), I can get my way.  Whether my path is the best option, or not.

I think I “disguise” this desire to be right fairly well.  Or, maybe not.  Either way, it struck me I was on to something.  

So, one of my goals for next year is to change my default setting from “persuade others I am right” to “seek to understand.”  

The timing is good.  First, I’m getting married tonight!  Being a loving husband is one of my highest aims in life.  Being curious about what Carey is thinking and feeling sounds like fun.  

I’m also dad to three daughters, ages 24, 13, and 12.  As my youngest girls enter their teenage years, seeking to understand their perspective as opposed to demanding my way sounds like an effective parenting strategy.  

In my professional world, we are experiencing tremendous growth.  Creating more space for others to share their ideas and views is a smart move on many levels.  It certainly creates an environment where people are encouraged to “unlock human potential,” one of our five core values at PCI.

In his book Conscious Business, Fred Kofman observes he’s been in many business meetings where the sole purpose is to obscure the truth.  There are rewards for those who go along.  Not so much for those who “rock the boat.”   

“The problem is not that someone thinks differently,” writes Fred.  “The problem is that somebody thinks that he is right and anybody who doesn’t think like him must be wrong.  Thus the ‘different ones’ become enemies to eliminate.  Instead of seeing the alternative view as a valuable perspective that can be integrated, power-hungry individuals take it to be a stumbling block.  Not surprisingly, they don’t want to waste their time engaging with it in dialogue.  They simply want to get rid of it by any means and move on.”

When this type of thinking really takes hold, the consequences are dire.  

“Without a commitment to the truth, individuals and groups are prone to degenerating into manic delusions,” writes Fred. “Everyone receives tranquilizing information while leaders trumpet the importance of ‘positive thinking’ and ‘being a team player.’  This makes it seem as if ‘we are winning’ until the last possible moment, when it is announced that the project has failed, the division will be sold off, the company is going under.” 

We have a choice to make, Jordan Peterson has observed.  We can make friends with “the things we know” or “the things we don’t know.”  

We are inclined to choose the first path.  

But the rewards of traveling the second path are immense.  Not only are there many more things we don’t know, but what we don’t know is the origin of all our new knowledge.  When we travel on this road, we are on a quest, always looking for new information on the chance that someone who doesn’t agree with us will tell us something we could not have figured out on our own.  

This is a completely different (and exciting) way of living our lives.  

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Reflection: What is the level of dialog within my team?  Do people feel comfortable challenging ideas?

Action:  Lead a discussion at an upcoming team meeting about the importance of sharing different opinions and perspectives.

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