Give Up Being Right

My friend and mentor, Ken Blanchard, offers leaders countless bits of wisdom. Among my favorites is “Give up being right. You will end up dead right”. Returning to his original One Minute Manager best seller, Ken is constantly preaching that it is about being aware of and “praising” others for being right that develops “winners.” He calls it “catching them doing something right.” He firmly believes that those “People who feel good about themselves produce good results.”

Seems easy. It’s pleasant to do. So, why is this relatively rare in the workplace? I have several theories.
First, the traditional role of the supervisor, often embedded in the less-than-useful annual evaluation process, focuses on finding faults and defining in detail what should be done to improve performance. More praise and a higher score in the annual evaluation will likely get you labeled as soft or ineffective. After all, not everyone can be
good at what they do (rather curious theory)!

Another contributor is that high performers (not necessarily those with the aptitude to manage people well) got there by tightly controlling what they do, defining just how it should be done to get the best result. They believe strongly in the methods they deploy to get to top performer status. They believe their way is the best or only way to accomplish something. In short, THEY ARE RIGHT! And they want you to apply their methods vs. find your way to strategies that work for you to produce the intended result.
Blanchard’s view is that the process of developing winners is somewhat different. The process has four steps as follows:

1. Tell them what to do (make responsibilities and expectations on those responsibilities clear)
2. Show them (if they are not familiar)
3. Let them try
4. If they get it close to right, PRAISE THEM; if not, redirect or repeat step #1

The key here is praising if close to right. It is about them feeling good about themselves rather than reinforcing how you believe it should be done. This is challenging for those who think they have found the best way to accomplish something. And that applies to most peak performers.
What about the other end of the statement, the part about “you will end up dead right.” Ken alludes that not acknowledging your team members; progress slows their journey to high performance. It stifles their willingness to innovate or to volunteer to take on new challenges. It leads to the supervisor being labeled a “bad boss,” which research shows contributes to more than 75% of unwanted turnover. So, you end up right, but you are dead because your team is not improving, and you may be suffering high turnover. A high price to pay for hanging on to being right.
I ask managers I am coaching who struggle with this, “What’s the worst thing that could happen letting ____ have a try and see what happens?” Commonly, the only answer is “Well, then I am not right” or the expert. Give up your need for both and focus on the needs of those working for you to be right. This is how the road to the full potential of your team is paved.
As always, reinforcing the wins of your team members and building their confidence begins with getting them to “yes” on the 7 Questions. They have to have clarity on the destination, the standard for winning and the feedback and resources to make it happen.

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