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  • Writer's pictureGraci Leadership

Sometimes Being Right is not as Important as Maintaining the Relationship



My wife, Lori, and I have been married for 33 years. Back in 1990, upon telling an HR professional at Northwest Airlines about my upcoming wedding day, she said, "I am going to give you some advice that has worked well for my husband and me for over 40 years. If you ever discuss or debate raising kids, conducting a marriage, or dealing with family members with your wife, remember, it's not who is right, but what is right that is important." I did not realize then that this passenger was quoting Thomas Huxley.


To this day, I have used that quote as a rule of thumb to help leaders deal with people of all generations. We have all heard the expression, "We don't give people medals around here for doing what they get paid to do." This sounds like a leader who does not have a high need for recognition, but now is imposing their value system on others. They fail to realize that recognition is a basic motivational need, and some people need to hear about it more than others. This leader will spend all their time convincing others they are right, but where will it get them? It's not about who is right, but what is right.


Another expression is, "No one ever held my hand when I was growing up. We had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps." Yes, some people have a higher need to know how they are doing in the workplace. It doesn't make them bad people. It just makes them human. Knowing how we are doing is a basic motivational need. In fact, a lack of feedback has become one of the biggest reasons why people are leaving an organization these days. It's not about who is right, but what is right that is important.


We all learn differently. Some of us learn by doing it. Some of us learn by seeing it. Some of us learn by reading directions. Personally, I learn by seeing a routine repeatedly. It eventually sinks in with me. Too often, ineffective leaders will jump to conclusions about a team member's intelligence when they don't pick up a task quickly. How we learn has nothing to do with competence or intelligence. It's not about who is right, but what is right.


HR professionals, help your leaders understand that they don't work with people—they work with unique individuals. When I say "unique individuals," I mean that in a good way. Help leaders understand that your team members have not been raised in your house. If they are going to spend all their time convincing others they are right, and others are wrong, they will spend all their time saying, "It's hard to find good people these days." But it's equally challenging to find good leaders these days, too. Sometimes, maintaining the relationship is more important than being right. Leaders are MADE, Not Born.

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