When I first became a manager I thought that the hardest thing I would ever have to do was firing someone. Man was I wrong. I dreaded those moments, but time passed and I had to do it a few times. I can now say it is not as bad as it is being right when being right isn’t what you want to be.
Sometimes we all need to be right. It helps with our self-esteem and provides a confirmation that we understand the world that surrounds us. Being right is perceived as one of the most powerful traits a Leader can have. After all, who follows someone who is admittedly wrong?
When you are responsible for other people though, sometimes being right does not feel as noble or as inspiring. It depends of course on the matter on which one is right or wrong and the context in which you are at that time. People usually disregard the importance of context but in this case, we just can’t go without it.
There are moments in the professional life of a Leader when being right does not represent a victory. It might still present an advantage and thus provide an opportunity to act upon that knowledge. And yet sometimes being right only means being aware, knowing what will happen and acknowledging a simple fact: you can’t stop it.
If you ever meet someone in management who says being right about everything is a blessing, run like hell. That kind of person is usually just too full of themselves to see what they need to see: knowledge can quickly become a burden.
Have you ever seen someone crash from Top Star to lowest performer ever? Did you know it was going to happen before it did? Where you able to revert it? Maybe once or twice you did but in general, it’s up to the person falling from grace to do it, not up to that person’s manager.
What about anticipating budget cuts, which inevitably leads to cutting benefits off or letting people go? Where you able to anticipate that the Company would do that and couldn’t do a thing about it? Sometimes not even CEOs can help that.
But what if you feel like you can help? What if you just go to that falling star and tell him “hey, you’ll crash, stop doing what you’re doing and change” or to the Board of Directors and tell them “I know we’ll have to let people go. Let’s not do that!”. Do you think that will change anything? Can it?
Maybe. Yet honestly most of the times you are right when you wish you weren’t, it can’t. An employee you know you’ll have to fire one day will be indeed, fired one day. Budget will run out in spite of your numbers and you might even lose your own job. A colleague that asks for advice that you know will not be heard will just do what he or she wants to do…and fail. And you know it but yet, can’t do a thing about it.
Knowing something will happen does not lead to knowing how to fix it.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at the job, or how much you think know about it. Sometimes you will just be faced with situations you can’t fix even if your action is needed and you will have to deal with it. That’s part of what Leaders do…even when they don’t want to.
Also published on Medium.