When there is a lot at stake, discussions around the executive level table can become heated. You are passionate, well informed, and keen to persuade your peers to your point of view.

Take care because being ‘right’ can be addictive* and winning has costs too.

When we are wedded to our point of view and feel powerfully right, we lack the perspective to connect to others and to realise they see and experience the world differently. While we are ‘winning’, we don’t realise that others are ‘loosing’, and we can overlook the impact this has on our colleagues and our working relationships with them.

Most of us were educated in a school system that rewarded us when we came up with the correct answer, and this became a learned behaviour. Now, in the workplace, when you think you are right, the brain responds with a hit of dopamine—a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward system. You feel good when you are right. When you add a dose of adrenaline—the ‘fight hormone’ that leaves you feeling dominant and invincible—you have a powerful cocktail, so why wouldn’t you want to keep winning?

As a senior leader, it’s up to you to consciously manage the potential for a rightness-addiction. Here are 5 ways to do that:

  1. Create frameworks for sharing: Create an opportunity for everyone to speak, especially in situations where one person (this may be you) is likely to dominate.
  2. Reflect on your responsibility: Remind yourself that with leadership comes a responsibly to get the best outcome, which may be an idea you did not initiate.
  3. No interruption rule: Overtly put this protocol in place and then ensure that you role model allowing others to speak.
  4. Leader speaks last: Make a conscious decision to canvass the opinions of others first, and then offer your opinion.
  5. Tell less and ask more: My latest book Leaders Who Ask provides practical strategies for leaders to embrace coaching strategies and questioning techniques.

Which strategy would work best for you?

The neurochemical mix in the brain changes in response to being right. Wise leaders are aware of this and consciously take steps to mitigate those risks.

Go Fearlessly


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