What’s right vs. who’s right

Shane Parrish was talking to a woman who was one of two candidates to become the next CEO in her organization. She approached him with a difficult problem that the organization faced, and her proposed solution. It would work, but it would be complicated and risky to execute. She also told him there was another solution that was much simpler, lower cost, and less risky—but her rival candidate had proposed it.

After listening to her defend her idea, Shane shared his own experiences with the need to be right. He used to think that if the best idea wasn’t his, he would be nothing—seen as not valuable, or not making a contribution. He had to be right, and it had cost him a lot of time and money. 

That changed when Shane started his own business. He writes in Clear Thinking, “When everything is on your shoulders and the cost of being wrong is high, I told her, you tend to focus on what’s right instead of who’s right. The more I’d given up wanting to be right, the better the outcomes I had. I didn’t care about getting the credit; I cared about getting the results.”

Then Shane asked her, “If you owned 100 percent of this company and couldn’t sell it for one hundred years, which solution would you prefer?”

“I know what I need to do,” she said. “Thank you.”

A few months later, Shane received a phone call from her. She made the decision to support her rival’s better solution. She helped the best idea win. She told Shane, “When the board saw that I could put aside my ego and do what was best for the company—even if it meant supporting someone competing with me for the same role—they knew I was the right person.”

Self-confidence is identifying the best idea and helping it win—even if you didn’t come up with the idea. As Shane writes, “Self-confidence is the strength to focus on what’s right instead of who’s right.”

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