“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith
Have you ever watched someone put enormous time and energy into proving why they were right? I am talking about the kind of person who just cannot let it go. You or someone else disagrees with them about something and then the next thing you know you get a half hour lecture on why they are right, then a follow-up phone call and several emails. Phew, that is so much energy!
And what about the energy you and your team expend listening to all of those justifications, reading the follow-up emails and trying to figure out how to work with (read this as work around) this person? You and your team might find yourselves being very careful not to disagree with this person, at least not while they are in the room. The next thing you know you start to bypass them or you hold two conversations; the one you have when they are in the room and the ‘real’ conversation that takes place when they are not around. This too is a waste of time and energy.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just sit back and look at things from someone else’s’ perspective for a moment? Of course. The question is how do you create an environment where always being right is not always a good thing? You start when you form your team. You make it part of team culture to look at problems and solutions from at least two or three perspectives. It does not always make sense to do this. You can do it enough times for issues or solutions of a specific size or complexity that you show your team that changing perspectives is a good thing, which ultimately allows you all to select the best solution for the situation at hand. Make it an expectation that team members who bring a solution to the table also try and list three reasons why this situation might be difficult or three reasons why this solution might not work for everyone. In this way being right is also about discussing why you might not be right.
The person who always needs to be right probably is not going to change for you or for the team. But you can set up an environment that is less tolerant of this behavior and sometimes your Mr. or Ms. Always Right will work within the team culture. After all, wanting to be correct could include wanting to be correct within the expectations of your peer group.