It occurred to me the other morning, as I was sat in my car on the M25 listening to a particularly non productive round of aggressive questions and defensive answers on Radio 4’s Today programme, that often our interactions with people come from a need to be right or to look good.
As the interviewer pursued his prey, asking questions in a way that could never be answered, but put him in a great position of power, the person being interviewed hedged and floundered and generally just survived the experience by not giving too much away or saying anything that might get them into more hot water. I noticed, as I listened, that I was really interested in the debate but not in the way it was being executed. There was never going to be a good outcome and these occasions always seem to end up in an uneasy, unsatisfying draw at the end. They never seem to have a productively successful outcome.
I was heading into a difficult conversation that day with a client and I noticed in my head that the way I was preparing was to ensure that I came out of it looking good and that my point of view was accepted or even considered to be the right one. After listening to the extreme conversation on the radio and noticing what they were doing, I realised that to have a successful meeting I would need to be building for the future rather than winning the conversation.
Sometimes my need to be right or look good can get in the way of what I truly care about and the successful partnerships I aim to build.
Leadership nudge: Whatever you are doing today, what is more important to you, creating success for the future you care about, or being right?
(Often you can’t have both!)
By Ian Lock