THE FEAR OF BEING WRONG
Fear is a great inhibitor to progress. As managers we deal with a variety of fears every day but one I see frequently blocking paths in business is the FEAR OF BEING WRONG.
There are few things harder to do than take a strong position on an issue, discuss it with others and then, over time, come to the conclusion that you are wrong. What does that do to your status as a leader and manager? Probably nothing good.
So how can you deal with that problem? I have struggled with that issue for many years but finally became comfortable with this solution: MAKE IT A SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH.
For example, say you are meeting with five supervisors who report directly to you. Your problem that you are discussing is a distressing increase in sick time taken. Your belief is that it is an aberration and a cyclical event. You believe that it will pass and is not worth everyone’s concern. You have seen that before so it could well be happening again. You are quite certain.
The temptation is to announce your feelings to the group because later, when you are proven right, it will enhance your image as the see-all, know-all manager. That feels pretty good. So don’t do it. Do you eat chocolate all day just because it tastes good? NO. You exercise some judgment. Do the same here.
Start the meeting off with something like this: “Ok, we’re all here to discuss this latest negative trend on sick time and I am sure most of us have an opinion about why it is happening. I know I do. But for now, in today’s meeting, let’s just keep an open mind. All we want to do is find the TRUTH. What is REALLY going on? One or more of us might be right already but we also might be wrong. Let’s not worry about who is right. Let’s just figure out the truth. Now, with that in mind, let’s hear each of your ideas on what is up.” Then start around the room. Save your own opinion for last. By the time you hear everyone else’s you may want to change yours. For example, Pete may say that he noticed that ever since management changed the PTO policy that morale has taken a dip. Hmmmm. That makes you doubt your own theory.
Then when it is your turn, set a good example. Tell people your original theory and how certain you were and then admit that Pete’s point changed your view. Now you are thinking there could be another reason for the problem. If others counter that or change their original stance too (even if they disagree) praise them for keeping an open mind and focusing on finding the TRUTH rather than vindication of their original theory.
The fear of being wrong dissipates when your focus is on finding the truth rather than proving you are more clever than the others. Fear of being wrong causes delays and wrong courses of action so change your focus and find the TRUTH instead. And quit eating that chocolate!