Do You Want to Be Right . . . or Do You Want to Be Effective?

“Efficiency is for machines, effectiveness for people” Stephen Covey

Today’s wisdom message has to do with effectively working with others. This is probably the single most important skill, hands-down, to a happy, successful life on the job and at home. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective? This question, which a former manager very subtly stated (almost under his breath), has had a powerful impact on my daily life since that ah-ha moment nearly 7 years ago.


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I was working on the Gillette brand at the time, and was having a difficult time with the Associate Director I was working with. We were testing some advertising, and the feedback we got from consumers was clear: the advertising was terrible. Not only that, but it actually put the brand equity at risk. Everyone, even the brand manager, was on the same page except for this guy. He was somehow holding onto the belief that the advertising was just fine. Now, I was fairly fresh out of grad school at this point, and was operating as I always had: very direct, very focused on the business and what needed done. I pulled some consumer quotes and showcased to the team how terrible the copy was. He wasn’t budging.

Now, it was my job to be the voice of the consumer, so I wasn’t ready to give up the good fight. I enrolled my manager to figure out how to influence this key business partner. During the meeting, my manager could sense my frustration. It was so clear. We had data to prove that airing this advertising would be a complete waste of money. It was at some point during my speech that he somewhat mumbled: “do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective?” That question stopped me in my tracks. It was clear that I was right (further testing of that ad went onto to prove this). However, I wasn’t being effective. I later learned that this Associate Director had a strong hand in developing this copy and had already touted it to his manager. Abandoning it would have cast a negative shadow on him as a leader. Understanding this, I approached the situation in a whole new way. At the next team meeting, I showcased an element of the ad that was working, and gave him public credit for incorporating this into the vision for the ad. Only after pumping his tires did I outline the opportunities to build on this element and make the ad stronger. He and his team revamped the copy & it received the highest possible testing score.

This was a great lesson early in my career that being right doesn’t automatically get me to the best outcome. In the world we live in, things are not black & white even though we may wish they were. Understanding the needs and motivations of our key stakeholders is critical in how to influence those folks into doing what we know is right. Approach is everything. Some people call it office politics. That’s partly true, but think about it: none of us wants to feel discounted, or look bad in front of our manager.

This very much applies at home as well. For example, my significant other had a bad habit of regularly getting home late from work without giving me any idea of when to expect him. Being very clear at how annoyed I was, I constantly scolded him about not having the courtesy to at least send me a text to let me know of his whereabouts. The problem persisted. Not only that, the no communication, subsequent nagging cycle was putting tension on our relationship. I thought about what my manager said and changed my approach. Whether or not I was right to expect better communication from him, I wasn’t being effective. So I waited until one day when he wasn’t super stressed and asked if I could talk to him about something I needed help with. I then explained to him that I love him very much, and that I get worried when it gets past a certain time & I haven’t heard from him. Could he please send me a text if he is going to get home past 7pm? Guess what? Yep – I have a phone full of his schedule updates. It’s wonderful.

So I ask you this? Do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective? In other words, what is the real outcome you want out a particular situation? Think about the person you’re working with, whether at work, home, or anywhere. Where are they coming from? What do they care about? How can you approach the situation to get the outcome you want vs. trying to bulldoze your way there? Stayed tuned for more posts on influencing others. Until then, cheers to being more effective!


This link shared at createwithjoy

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