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These 2 words are NOT music to your ears

Grant stands at the front of the room, delivering a passionate presentation on why this new machine is going the be the answer to all our problems. His voice excited, eyes intense, he moves quickly around the room engaging people in a story of a dramatically better future. His numbers are perfect – throughput will increase, downtime will decrease, the cost of quality will decline. He knows all the intangibles – customer complaints will stop, morale will improve, managers will have more time.


"This is exactly what we need to do next."

He pauses. He looks around the room. And waits. "You're right," he hears from his left.


And then one by one, each of the nine people around the table chime in and agree with him. He's presented such an airtight case, who could disagree? Who would disagree?


Back in his office, he gives himself a private pat on the back, congratulates himself for nailing it.



On the surface, the words "You're Right" feel exactly like what's supposed to happen in a situation like this. If Grant's done all his research, if he's really thought through all the options, "You're Right" is exactly what he should hear...


...shouldn't he?


No.


"You're right" are two of the most dangerous words you can ever hear in the context of leadership. Hearing them should make you shudder.


"You're right" marks the end of the discussion.

"You're right" validates everything you've just said (your ego loves this...).

"You're right" lulls us into the misguided belief that we have thought of everything.


And it’s never true. Exceptional leaders and managers know they can never cover all the bases themselves. They know they need the strengths, perspectives and experiences of their team members to see around corners. As much as our egos like to hear these two little words, they are extremely dangerous.


Instead of finishing his presentation with this pointed statement “This is exactly what we need to next,” Grant could have actively looked to uncover blindspots.


Jeff, for example, has gotten into the habit of adding the question “Why am I wrong?” after he expresses a strong opinion. And people answer him. As a result, he’s building a culture that is open to challenge, and open to debate. On Jeff's team, when someone disagrees people don’t internalize it. They embrace disagreement because it's not about them, it’s simply the path to good decisions.


I call these statements “opinion-finishers.” Good finishers will open the door to other perspectives, rather than close it. Here are some other excellent finishers:

  • What are all the ways this could go wrong?

  • What am I missing?

  • Prove me wrong (use with proper tone, this can sound like an attack if you’re not careful)

  • What makes this a terrible idea?

  • What concerns you about this? (or even more direct, what scares you about this?)

Exceptional leaders have figured out that inviting criticism…or different opinions…helps them go further faster, for two reasons.

  1. They create a culture of not taking things personally, which allows their teams to move exponentially faster through decision-making

  2. Everyone learns something new, which leads to better decisions and more “Plan B’s” for when things don’t go as planned. Ultimately, it allows for more creative outcomes


Is it time to re-frame your thinking?


Go ahead and join the conversation. What's you're favourite "finisher" for inviting alternate perspectives?



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My name is Laura Vaughan. I'm a CPA, a former CEO and I elevate the world's managers so they can do three things in your business: 1) Deliver Consistent Results, 2) Nurture Key Relationships and 3) Drive Strategic Growth. As me about The Skillful Manager Program - high-impact, low-time-intensive training for your top team.


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