I have a baseball analogy I’ve used for a number of years. Being a Minnesota Twins fan since I can remember, there are a handful of players I’ve enjoyed watching. Joe Mauer, the slugging left-handed catcher and first baseman, had a lifetime batting average of .306. In baseball terms, is very good.
What does that mean? Out of 10 times up to bat, he was “right” (or got on base) 3 of those and was “wrong” (didn’t get on base) the other 7. He’ll probably make the hall of fame for being 30% accurate!
Why do I highlight baseball stats? Well, my job is to get those smarter than me to align on project goals and tasks, and drive those forward to completion. So as I sat in a meeting surrounded by PhD’s and those with master’s degrees in the human sciences, conversations turned technical as we explored options to resolve a problem. There were great conversations and ideas, but no solid path forward. Given it was a 30 minute meeting, I always reserved the last 5 minutes for decisions, next steps, owners and due dates.
In those last 5 minutes, I piped up and told everyone though the conversation was good, we needed to move on. “Here’s what I heard we’re going to do and who’s doing it. You need to tell me if I’m wrong!” I proceeded to give direction, who was going to do it and by when. As requested, they told me I was wrong! But, within those 5 minutes, we went from no decision, to me giving the wrong direction, to alignment. The wrong answer given by me facilitated the correct one by the team (even though they were a little upset with me).
This is just one example of where being wrong allowed the team to figure out what the right path was. Sometimes, your team won’t want to make a decision. Maybe they’re afraid of being wrong or viewed as “dumb” in front of their peers. In these instances, you’ll need to figure out a means to gain alignment. There are three ways I’ve done this.
- Maybe you know what next steps and owners are based on the conversation. Guess what? You’re Right! The team agrees, commits and delivers on agreed to tasks.
- Maybe you know what next steps and owners are based on the conversation. Guess what? You’re Wrong! The team corrects you, commits and delivers on agreed upon tasks.
- (Only use in rare instances) Based on the conversation, you knowingly give the Wrong answer understanding the team will disagree (plus maybe be a little pissed) with you and align with each other.
Whether you unintentionally give direction or say something wrong, or maybe do it intentionally, your goal is to have the team correct you and align on a path forward. It may take a variety of strategies to get this to happen, but ultimately, don’t take is personally if you’re corrected. Remember, a baseball player can be right 30% of the time and make the hall of fame. If you’re right 50%, well, I’d say that’s a really good day!!