Updated: May 11, 2022
When I was a teenager, before I could drive, I had an argument with my Mum in the car.
She was telling me how she could slow the speed of our (manual) car just by changing down through the gears. I said that was preposterous, the brakes are for slowing down the car. Why would the gears do the same?
Turns out she was right.
Being open to being wrong
It has taken me many years, but these days I am somewhat more open to the idea that I might be wrong about an issue.
She talks about how we travel through life in a ‘bubble of rightness’. We know we’ve been wrong in the past. We know we’ll be wrong in the future. But right now, as I sit in this meeting discussing our approach to the client’s brief, I just know I am right.
‘Being open to being wrong’ is important for leaders and managers.
Management is about bringing out the best in others
Management, in my view, is about bringing out the best in others. It requires a mix of confidence and humility. It requires emotional intelligence. Vulnerability.
Which means being open to being wrong, right now.
It can take many years to learn this lesson. New managers often don’t really know what they’re doing – they may not have had good role models, or any training - but they hide behind an inflexible, over-confident mask.
So, here’s what you can do.
Whenever you’re with a group of people considering a course of action, just stop yourself and consider the possibility you might be wrong. Explore other people’s ideas. Listen.
Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give people as a manager, much more than telling them what to do.
And there’s a magnificent bonus for people who are open to being wrong.
Every time I realize I’m wrong, I’m one step close to being right.