“There’s nothing wrong with being wrong.”
This phrase reminds me of the parable of Abilene, popularized by management expert Jerry B. Harvey. In the story, one by one the members of a family decide to take a long drive to Abilene, Texas. None of them really want to go, but they go along with what they think the group wants.
After a long, hot drive, a disappointing visit, and another long, hot drive back, it’s revealed that none of them really wanted to go in the first place. In our training, we use this as an opportunity to discuss the dangers of “group think” and we start referring to group think as “going to Abilene.”
In a recent training, however, one participant made a different point. What if it’s not about not going to Abilene, he said. What if next time we love the food? What if we discover they’ve just renovated? There’s nothing wrong with making a bad decision, as long as we just dig through and learn from it.
In a coach approach, we ask questions to explore all aspects of a situation. Being wrong ends up being this really rich opportunity to learn and to see things completely differently.
In business, or politics, or wherever we find ourselves in leadership roles, we may not always know definitively what to do. But we still need to make decisions, based on the information that we have. If we avoid deciding because we don’t want to be wrong, we risk making even costlier mistakes by doing nothing, and we miss opportunities to learn and grow.
I hear from coaching clients that they just want to do everything right. I encourage them to just map out the next steps. When you do incremental movements, you can see if you’re somewhere you don’t want to be, and you can adjust the placement of your next foot.
Strong leaders commit to learn as they go and make decisions, even if they’re wrong.