Wrong… full stop.
Sometimes, the answer has to be no, because the idea/suggestion/option is simply wrong.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
People can be and are often wrong, but it’s tough to manage
We had several workshops running last week and one of the classic things that often comes up in the room is someone (often alone in their opinion) challenges a research-based, tried and true tactic. That doesn’t bother us and I love the opportunity to hear their thinking and see if they’re right or simply resistant to change (e.g. wrong).
An example of this recently was a technical person suggesting that it’s perfectly fine to waste time in meetings that don’t add value so people can feel heard. The subtext, they like talking about what they like talking about, even though everyone else doesn’t want to be there (and an email would suffice).
They were wrong both in practice and in logic. The reality is that:1. people weren’t feeling heard in that meeting 2. That’s not an effective way for people to feel ‘heard’ 3. It was the way they felt comfortable dealing with the issues (rather than addressing them directly).
I love these moments because immediately the other leaders in the room:
- Shudder at the suggestion. This sometimes shows up as them shifting in their chair or as general looks of disgust.
- Occasionally will nod if I challenge the other person (meaning they agreed with us but didn’t want to say anything first).
- Rarely will the leaders (even the CEO) pipe up and say something.
You don’t have to agree with everyone and I challenge you to push back
When we get called in to tackle culture problems, we’re able to get traction quickly through our approach to breaking the bad habits, but also through some effective tactics you can apply yourself:
- Stop nodding — If the person is wrong, you CAN say “I hear you and understand why you might think that, BUT it’s not correct”. Don’t nod yes and stay silent.
- Don’t let it slide — The standard you walk past is the one you accept (old leadership proverb). That holds up here too. If you ignore a problem e.g. someone being wrong and thinking they are right, then you unintentionally impact the culture trajectory and business results.
- Tell them why — Don’t swing so far as to just say “no” without giving them a reason/your thinking. People can’t get better if you don’t give them specifics on why they’ve missed the mark.
- Don’t make it personal — If we can’t tell someone they are wrong without it being personal, what kind of culture are we building here? Wrong is wrong in the context of the company, objectives and culture. Leaders have to hold the line on the things that matter.
Don’t give in
You have to have the conversations that matter.
When people suggest terrible ideas/things that don’t align with the culture (such as wasting time in meetings), you’re the last line of defence against a movement of mediocrity.