Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The NEED TO BE RIGHT is not about being correct.  It is about the interaction that causes people to not be open about problems or not to step up with ideas on how to solve.

Now that I think about it, my first observation about people's need to be right is with my father. "The reason you have to do XXX is because I said so." 

In business it is the boss who will listen to  people's challenges and their ideas on how to resolve but in the end makes the decision what to do, inferring "I know best".  The paradox is:  on one hand the boss asking for input from her staff, demanding greater initiative, productivity and problem solving - without realizing that the NEED TO BE RIGHT syndrome inhibits all of these from happening.

Working for such a person causes one to feel marginalized, not having a voice - to be disregarded for thoughtful discussion of ideas.

In my coaching practice, I have found it helpful to focus one on this paradox by looking at both sides of the coin and then uncovering why it is so important to the right.  Here are some of the motivators my clients have told me:
  • Not having confidence in others ability
  • I need to be in control
  • Not risking looking like I don't have the answers
  • It is my job to make the big decisions
  • I am better qualified than my staff
If you are a NEED TO BE RIGHT person, consider why people are not stepping up with compelling ideas to solve problems or meeting your expectations.  Then take the risk of empowering your people to execute their ideas with your support. You just may be surprised that the results are better than you expected!

If you work for a NEED TO BE RIGHT person, don't give up.  Show respect for that person for their ideas and avoid causing their defensiveness. At the same time, make the case why your idea or approach might be better for all concerned.  Promote "compromise" so both of you feel the "win".

Monday, July 9, 2012


You may know Dave--he is challenged by one of his staff, Annie, who in meetings communicates an attitude of "I know better than [you, them, and others]".

Both are clients who over many months have not resolved this barrier to playing nice in the sand box.  And Dave's team is expecting him to step up to resolve.

Three steps that helped:
  1. Dave learned to confront Annie (in private) immediately after this attitude was observed
  2. He was direct; "I need you to stop taking strong positions on issues at the expense of other's views and opinions. Learn how to engage them and listen."
  3. He asked for commitment: "Can you do this?  What should I do if it keeps happening?"
So why does avoidance of giving constructive feedback occur?  My clients tell me:
  • Concern about escalation
  • Not sure how to approach
  • Giving up power
  • Being vulnerable
When I observed a CEO client start this conversation, she started with praise and was abruptly interrupted by her staff member, "Are you accusing me of being a problem in working with you?"

Caught in the act of being passive aggressive causes distrust that takes a long time to repair.  Understand that people what to know where they stand so they can correct their behavior.

In my dealings with family run businesses, the avoidance of conflict is the same.  The only difference is who holds on to the power which, in turn, reduces trust.