When I first got into the training and consulting business I really believed that it was critical that I demonstrate an exceedingly high level of competence and a strong confidence in my ideas. Often times when a client felt that I was wrong, I would argue with them and defend my position with vigor in an attempt to prove that I was right and they were wrong. Then one day I had an epiphany…
I was not right.
Actually, I am never right.
The truth is there are often multiple right answers. My ideas are based purely on my opinion and every person in my classes has a right to their opinion too. Each of them has a unique background, with unique experiences and they have seen, read, and learned all kinds of things I have never been exposed to. No matter what my answer is to a question, it is extremely rare that my answer is the only right answer.
As soon as I realized that, everything became easy.
I no longer had to defend, argue, persuade, or attempt to prove that I was right – because I knew I wasn’t. Sure, I’ve had a lot of business experience, read thousands of books, worked in hundreds of different companies all over the world – but still, at the end of the day, I’m just giving a thoughtful guess as to what I think the answer might be. I could be completely wrong, I have been several times in the past, and I will be several times in the future. However, there’s also a very good chance that I will be right, or at least my idea will work well, perhaps as well or better than other people’s ideas.
Adopting this position allows me to be fearless because it is impossible for me to fail.
I offer my opinion, I give some feedback, I suggest the very best ideas I can possibly think of, and then is up to the other person if they want to accept my idea or reject it. It’s just an idea. If they hate it, that does not matter at all, they are perfectly welcome to think that my idea is terrible. But here’s the most important point: that doesn’t mean I’m terrible or stupid or incompetent, it just means they didn’t like my idea. Big deal.
Luckily, the people that hire me are typically inclined to be interested in my ideas and most often think they are pretty good and even sometimes excellent. Again, that’s nice, but it doesn’t crush my soul if someone feels I’m completely off-base and have no idea what I’m talking about.
It’s just an idea…big deal.
I look forward to your thoughts – do you think I’m right?