You are wrong

*This is a love note to my team that has kept me grounded for the years we’ve been working together. I love you all and welcome any of you to call me on my bullshit anytime you spot it.

It’s time to talk turkey. We all feel we’re right all the time, right? So it makes absolute sense as humans we feel a rush of dopamine when we in fact are validated by others that we are correct in our assertions. When we’re young, this is incredibly frustrating as we feel suppressed by our much older superiors.

The higher up we climb, the more right we feel

This can lead to people giving up entirely professing “I’m not built for a 9-to-5 job!” and pursuing their childhood passion. Yeah, being a pro-skater didn’t work for me either 🙁

As we grow and get older ourselves we realize the foolishness of this thinking. Of course a 9-to-five doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for anyone! Who ever came up with this idea that you can make creativity and productivity happen on a schedule was delusional. But I digress…

While we climb the corporate ladder, or become more successful by being “right” all the time, the more we believe our own bullshit. Yes, you are not immune. No matter how pragmatic or data driven a thinker you try to be, at times you will make shit up, and fully believe in it. This is where it gets dangerous…

When we reach this senior leadership role we have fewer and fewer people that will actually challenge our thinking

At this point you’ve achieved a senior leadership position in your career. I don’t mean CDO of a 5 person startup, I mean CDO at a billion dollar company with hundreds of millions in revenue. No longer is believing your own bullshit just going to impact you. There are real people that depend on your decision making ability whose lives will be greatly impacted if you make a bad call. Not only do people really depend on you, but you probably have surrounded yourself with people who believe your bullshit as well, and are probably afraid to call you on it.

This is the most dangerous situation for you and those that depend on you. To truly make good decisions, we must use a healthy balance of evidence in the form of data and common sense. At this point though, many of us believe our own bullshit so much that we would never let data contradict our own sage opinions. So we cherry pick! We look for data solely to backup our claims. We may even hire people to do this for us. Them being low level data analysts and us being high profile executives, do you really think any of them are going to challenge us on our thinking? No, they’re going to do their best to bend the data to support our claims so we think favorably of them and potentially start believing their bullshit.

To be successful, leaders need to surround themselves with people that challenge their thinking

This is why that, as a senior leader, where real peoples lives depend on you, it is absolutely imperative that you surround yourself with people that are not afraid to say “You’re wrong”. If you are a part of a company that believes in truth seeking as a principle this is even better because in theory, as tough as it may feel, you should be open to anyone calling you on your bullshit no matter their title or role in the company.

So let me ask, when was the last time one of your direct reports said to you “you’re wrong”.

Not figuratively by challenging you or trying to convince you of an alternate opinion, but saying literally, those words?

I get that some people’s personalities aren’t such that they will come out and say that, but if you’ve never, or not in a long time been told flat out you’re wrong, I’d recommend thinking about seeking out those that will, and embracing their criticism. They’re the ones that will lay out a roadmap for you to succeed and become better than you were before.

Check your ego and be open to others views that differ from yours. Remember, people are counting on you, so don’t screw it up.

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