You may be wrong

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Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the other person is wrong so you can forge ahead with self-righteous indignation. Consider that you may be wrong.

Leadership Concept:

Immortalized as Davy Crockett in movies and frontier folklore, David Crockett was a ‘coonskin cap-wearing former-U.S. Congressman from Tennessee. He was killed on March 6, 1836, at the Battle of the Alamo, fighting for Texas independence. Crockett’s mantra, well-known during his life, was: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

It’s a mantra to which many of us can relate, encouraging us to forge ahead with confidence against any leadership challenge. But, the key portion of the phrase we must examine is this: “Be sure you’re right.”

For any disagreement with others, you must first consider that you might be wrong. Whether it’s with a family member, a team member at work, or our boss, when we disagree about something or don’t seem aligned, you need to start with humility. The biggest obstacle to keeping the ego in check is the inability to detach. You must be able to detach.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the other person is wrong and you’re right, so you can forge ahead with self-righteous indignation. Consider that you may, in fact, be wrong.

Ask Yourself:

Why do they disagree?

What do they see that I don’t see?

What am I missing?

Don’t Believe Everything You Believe I was listening to the Jocko Debrief podcast with Jocko and Dave Berke the first time I heard Jocko say, “Don’t believe everything you believe.”

It’s an interesting statement and seemingly contradictory. But it’s a powerful and humbling reminder not to dig in your heels and assume you are in the right. Not believing everything you believe forces you to put your ego in check, detach from your emotions, and examine if your perspective is correct. Instead of insisting you are right, this mindset enables you to keep an open mind and listen to others to better understand their perspective. You can then, from a detached perspective, determine if you are truly right or if someone might have a better way to accomplish the mission and win. Then, you can change your mind and adopt their plan, or allow yourself to be influenced by their recommendation or perspective. And if, in fact, after examination from a position of detachment, your way seems better, safer, or more efficient, you will have a far easier time influencing others to see your perspective and adopt your plan.

Real-World example:

“I refused to carry out the order,” the police officer told me. The officer was a SWAT member who had responded with his team to an incident where an armed suspect, barricaded in a house, had fired multiple rounds at responding officers. The SWAT officer explained that his team leader had ordered him to move forward to a position he felt was unsafe. “The order didn’t make sense. It was going to get me or someone on my team killed. So I refused to carry out the order. What do you do in a situation like that?” the officer asked.

“That sounds like a tough situation,” I lamented. The SWAT officer had clear confidence that he was right and that his boss was wrong. He wanted to know how to rebuild his relationship with his team leader after verbally disagreeing with him and refusing to follow an order. I tried to understand the situation better before making any judgment.

“What happened after that?” I asked the SWAT officer.

“My team leader moved up to the position he ordered me to take,” the officer responded. “We were eventually able to take the suspect into custody without any injuries to our team.”

“Your team leader was able to do what he had asked you to do, and he didn’t get injured or killed?” I asked, just to be sure I understood the situation.

“That’s correct,” the officer responded.

“So, were you incorrect in your assessment?” I asked. The SWAT officer didn’t say anything, not having previously considered that he might have been wrong. “I guess that’s true,” he finally answered. “Do you think your team leader wants you or any of your guys to get wounded or killed?” I asked.

The SWAT officer shook his head, “Definitely not.”

“It sounds like he had a different perspective than you and saw an opportunity to gain an advantage that might help to resolve the situation,” I observed. “If I were you, I’d go talk to your team leader and take ownership of the fact that he was right and you were wrong. I know that hurts the ego. But it’s the truth. And you have to admit that and own it. Then, ask earnest questions so that you can better understand how your team leader thinks about risk and how to best mitigate the risk to your team. That’s the only way you can move forward to rebuild the relationship. When you disagree on something, you have to consider that you might be wrong.”

For Action:

This week, examine where you are in disagreement or out of alignment with someone on your team, at work, or at home. Detach from your emotions. Put your ego in check.

Ask Yourself:

Why do they disagree?

What do they see that I don’t see? What am I missing? Consider that they might be right, and you might be wrong. If you’re wrong, admit it, take ownership, align with them, and move forward.

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