Mostly Right

Be mostly right.

Twenty-five years ago I got a copy of a “one-pager” from one of my bosses about being successful as a manager. Anyone who matriculated at P&G (Procter & Gamble) as I did – proudly – remembers the axiom and absolute of the one-pager: if you can’t fit it on one page you haven’t thought about it enough.

This particular one struck me deeply, so much so that I still have it today. And one of the key points from the author was this:

  • Be mostly right

I think of this often today – many times a week – because in the last few decades we have been failing in our duties to teach young managers what success is all about. Of course popular culture and mass and social media do not do the job at all, but you know what? Its not their job to teach. Fads, trends and #SoMe have nothing to do with sustaining values and foundation elements. By their very nature they’re ephemeral alighting from one topic to the next a mile wide and an inch deep.This does not instruct.

Its our job to teach young managers, and my peers, we’re not doing it well enough.

Take today’s lesson. There is a subtle and deep meaning in being”mostly” right. It implies that we have to weigh in with conclusions and projections and be right a vast majority of the time. Note, I didn’t say opinion. Being right is not a matter of opinion. Anyone who has suffered through an emotional plea at budget time understands the futility of pleading without the rigor of supporting logic.

Mostly right isn’t 51% either. For me its somewhere north of 80% – at least four times out of five, if not more, I should have thought something through well enough to carry the point, make a plan and move forward. Consider: can we truly feel we’re successful in organizational life if we’re right about half the time? That sounds like randomization to me, not hard work.

Which brings up work ethic. One cannot be mostly right about plans, projects, details etc., without a great deal of applied effort. We fail to teach those following us success, innovation, creativity and solutions are in fact the outcome of hard work. Partially or periodically right is the result of winging things, recalling what some odd professor taught us in school, or remembering a practice from a long-ago project. It is not deep thinking, nor mostly right.

In fact, being mostly right is the result of being in this time with everything we’ve got including the collaboration of our peers, who can pull apart our thinking, dissect our conclusions and give us critical feedback to refine our thought processes. Mostly right is mostly collaboration the collective answer always exceeding the lone wolf approach.

Finally, the beauty of mostly right is the unstated but clear imperative: dispense with ego. Mostly right implies not always right, eg., remaining open to different solutions, alternative approaches and diametrically opposed conclusions. Humbling the ego for the betterment of the organization.

Want to be successful in managing your team, department or enterprise? Be mostly right. With all the work, thought and collaboration that entails.

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