Be Right – Or Get What You Want

I’ve been in my career now for nearly 17 years. One of my most loved and hated pieces of advice that I’ve received was given to me by an executive early in my career. He said, “You can be right…. or get what you want.” I was 23 and had no idea what he was talking about.

Time for vulnerability – here comes the embarrassing part for me. The advice was given to him through a trainer before I joined the company and unfortunately, I’ve searched high and low all over the internet and can’t cannot find the trainer’s name as I wanted to provide him with the credit for developing this phrase that has made me a better husband, father, friend, coach and business leader. Wherever you are Mr. Trainer….Thank you!

If you search for this phrase on the Internet, you will see there are similar types of advice out there, but I really like and hate this one the most. Wait a minute. How could I reference something I love and hate so much in the same breath? Easy….I learned early in my career to check my ego at the door and focus on the right things when dealing with conflict or just the art of building strong relationships. Please know that I say the word “hate” with a tinge of sarcasm, but in all sincerity it can be tough to admit when you are wrong and that is why this can be so impactful for you. I still apply this advice daily and have shared it with many co-workers, clients, friends and even my wife. By adopting this advice and sharing it with others in my life, I have seen people improve how they build relationships and eliminate wasted time in unnecessary conflict.

I have to be honest though. When I first heard this piece of advice, I didn’t understand that 99% of the time you cannot have it both ways. You either can be right or get what you want. It wasn’t until a few years later after hearing this advice that the lightbulb went on and everything clicked for me. I finally was able to apply this in my life and it was awesome.

Let me provide you with a real world example that I experienced. I provide customized consulting solutions to my clients and I had a customer who was looking for very aggressive pricing model and also wanted to have the ability to convert my firm’s consultants to employees of his company without having a financial penalty imposed on him. Our business relationship was still in infancy stage, but we were building a strong foundation and I wanted to show him how I was different. To paint the picture clearer, my customer was very strong willed and was always right. Regardless if he was….he was right. This was a difficult request to accommodate as we as a company would be losing in the short run and were taking on the majority of the risk with his request.
Insert my lightbulb moment…HERE! I asked myself was it more important to “be right” and tell my customer what he was asking was unrealistic? What would be for me to gain by saying that? Even if I thought I was right, what would I accomplish by saying that to him? OR was it more important for me “to get what I want” and find a creative solution to make my customer very happy and show him how easy and flexible I could be to work with in partnering with him. Here is where I learned the power win relationships and not deals. Oh yeah…almost forgot to tell you…this customer is still someone that I work with today. Get my point?

There are many other areas of life where this advice can be applied. Can you think of the last time that you were in an argument or conflict with someone? What was the root of the discussion? I’m sure you were right…..right? Or wait….Was it about your ego and someone else’s? Or was there a legitimate reason that was worth the argument in the first place? Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that we all should be door mats and give in when we face someone or something that is difficult. I’m not. I’m extremely competitive and love to win. But I love to win people more by being myself through a genuine and authentic approach.

So…..I am just asking you to think before you argue and get upset as I’ve found it will save you a lot of pain and angst in the future.

I would love to hear from you. Please think about this advice that has been very instrumental for me and I ask you to attempt to apply this in your personal and professional relationships. I am confident that you will see things from a different perspective and also learn to check your ego at the door and focus on the most important things, rather than worrying about if you were right or not.

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