Do you want to be right… or do you want to be effective?

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

Hello ladies!

One life-reality that can be both an incredible challenge, yet fundamentally critical to any glimmer of success or happiness is effectively working with other people. This is probably the single most important skill you can master to thrive 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 many years ago.

I was working on the Gillette brand and was having a difficult time with my Associate Director. We were testing some advertising and the feedback we got from consumers was clear: it was terrible. Not only that, it actually put the brand equity at risk. Everyone, even the brand manager, was on the same page except for this guy. He was astoundingly holding onto the belief that the advertising was just fine. Now, I was fairly fresh out of grad school, and was operating as I always had: very direct and focused on the business and what needed done. I synthesized some data, pulled some consumer quotes and showcased 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 disastrous 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. The data proved I was right. But 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 our category GM. Abandoning it would have cast a negative shadow on him as a leader. Understanding this, I approached the situation in a whole new way. I showcased the elements of the ad that were working and gave him public credit for incorporating these into the ad’s vision. Only after pumping his tires did I outline the opportunities to “build on what was working.” He and his team eventually revamped the copy. It then 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 to getting along and ultimately influencing. Approach is everything. Some people call it politics. Perhaps so, but think about it: none of us wants to feel discounted, or look bad in front of others.  

This applies exponentially at home. Avoiding husband head-butting is not something I’ve done well. To provide one of endless examples, your dad had a bad habit of regularly getting home late from work with zero heads-up. I was obnoxiously clear about my frustration. I constantly laid into him about his lack of common courtesy. How hard is it to text so I’d know if I’d be getting any help with you girls? The problem persisted. Not only that, the no communication, subsequent nagging cycle was causing major resentment. I thought about what my manager said. Whether or not I was right to expect better communication from him, I wasn’t being effective. So, I waited for a calm opening and asked for his help. I explained that I love him very much and worry when I’m heading to bed and haven’t heard from him. Guess what? Yep – I have a phone full of his schedule updates. It’s wonderful.     

You will have to work with all kinds of different personalities who may pose a challenge. A classmate you’re paired up with. A coworker, manager, husband, mother-in-law, child, doctor, customer service agent, etc. 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 in a particular situation? Who are you dealing with? What is their likely perspective? Their motive? Approach the situation with eye for effectiveness over rightness and be amazed at your success. Finally, PLEASE read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” You’ll be unstoppable if you master his teachings.

I love you with everything I have.

Xo, Mom

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