Why being wrong is right

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There are a number of business mistakes to avoid when starting a new venture, particularly when you begin to get to grips with managing a growing team. As this TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz detailed very few people like to be wrong.

The words ‘dreadful’ and ‘embarrassing’ were in turn associated with any wrongdoing or mistake in business. As we’ll discover in this blog post however, being wrong is actually a part of growing a successful team and developing a thriving business.

Exploring Wile E Coyote syndrome

Schulz hits the nail on the head when she likens being wrong with how Wile E Coyote feels when taking that run off a cliff. Just like business or team leaders that realise they’re wrong, Wile E comes to this realisation in mid-air before descending to his peril. We like to refer to this as ‘Wile E Coyote syndrome’. Receiving helpful criticism can be beneficial, however.

We don’t want to feel like we don’t know our business or our team better than anyone else, but sometimes individuals looking in from the outside see things a little better.

Success starts with failure

Seeing failure as a positive is a must when running a successful business. As The Undercover Economist Tim Harford explains in his best-selling book Adapt, even the best leaders need help fulfilling their roles as problem solvers:

“Whatever the reason, the temptation to look to a leader to fix our problems runs deep. Of course, a leader doesn’t have to solve every problem by himself. Good leaders surround themselves with expert advisers, seeking out the smartest specialists with the deepest insights into the problems of the day.”

Being wrong will make you a better leader. Leading as if you’re right, whatever the outcome, may save face. But listening to robust criticism from those around you and putting confirmation bias to one side thanks to an open, unhurried approach will gain the respect of your team and build a credible reputation in business.

Play more than a role

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Infallibility isn’t power, even though many leaders consider it to be. Leaders with this mindset tend to be only playing a role, a character whose sincerity and motives will only be questioned with time. It’s better to play devil’s advocate to challenge your own thoughts and position.

Your team should provide worthy adversaries for achieving just this, but you don’t have to inspire hostility and fierce deconstruction. Simply noting the slightly raised eyebrow, wry smile, frown, or other tiny sign can ignite the curiosity that strikes up interesting conversations that push your business forward.

Enquiries into these small clues and changes in body language should be good natured. Show an interest in these unexpected reactions and learn from their responses.

A slower pace of operating and a show of vulnerability will facilitate this practice. This could leave you a little uncomfortable at first but comes with the hope of learning something new, unexpected and better.