Once, at the beginning of my career at Mobiltec, I visited a customer alongside my senior manager, where we were to present the architecture of a solution we would build for them. It was my first time traveling on business, and I was so excited about being there.
We explored and discussed many integration points at the meeting with the customer’s team. It was over 15 years ago, so I don’t remember the technical details, but the lesson learned I’ll remember forever.
After the meeting, we discussed its outcomes on the commute back to the airport. I proudly referred to a technical “battle” I won during the meeting. And then my manager wisely asked:
Yes, you were right, Eduardo, and you won that argument. But did you solve the problem?
And suddenly, I realized what he meant with that question. I won an argument and exposed a problem but didn’t provide an alternative solution. The issue was still open, requiring further meetings, increased project deadlines, and a bigger budget. The outcome wasn’t good either for my company or for the customer. What I first felt was a private victory quickly became a failure.
Delivering Results is More Important than Being Right
The lesson I learned that day is that delivering results is far more important than being right.
Although, as an individual contributor, being right usually translates to delivering results, as a leader this rationale is often wrong.
That is because, as a leader, you maximize your results through the efforts and outcomes of other people (your team, stakeholders, customers, etc.), but people think, explore, and solve problems differently and frequently have diverse goals to achieve.
I’ve learned along the way that we need to shift how we think about exploring and solving problems. Some important premises:
Public victory comes before private victory
- Think always win-win and seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- As a leader inside a company, maximize results in this order: First, your company’s results, then your team’s results, and only after that, your own results.
Begin always with the end in mind
- The outcome is more important then the steps to get there. You may compromise first to achieve more outstanding results.
- Win people over to your way of thinking. Let the other person make a great deal of the talking, even feel that your idea is theirs.
To be a great leader, you must learn how to handle other people.
- Be a good listener; encourage and empower others; ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Show respect for other people’s opinions, ideas, and desires; be friendly and try to see things from their perspective.
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly.
Other than through the wisdom of that former manager I had, I’ve compiled such premises through learning and experience. I highly recommend two books if you want to develop such skills:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, is one of my favorite books. A must read for people that want to develop better personal and professional relationships. It is one of the best-selling books of all time, first published almost a century ago, but it is still a relevant reading about influence.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, is a cornerstone in personal development. Essential for those seeking to achieve lasting change in both their personal and professional lives. It provides a principle-centered approach for solving complex challenges. A recommended read for anyone committed to personal growth and effectiveness.
Both are full of examples and situations to help you embrace a more collective, result-oriented attitude.
Developing your own set of guiding principles to a more result-oriented attitude will impact your leadership reach and influence everyone around you.