Knowing Wrong from Right




As leaders we often we have to make decisions, sometimes tough decisions. The expectation is that we will look to make the right decision, but the question is, right for who?

Ideally we would look to make the right decision for the right reason, but unfortunately thats not always so easy to discern.

Sometimes it can feel like we are stuck between making the right decision for the wrong reasons, or the wrong decision for the right reasons.

This really is a dilemma, and probably more common than you realise.

As an example, lets assume we have two candidates for a senior role, a man and a woman, both equally qualified, but with the man having more experience, and for the sake of this example we will assume that the man is the better candidate.

However, we also have a plan to increase diversity, with the goal to increase woman in senior management positions.

What is the right answer and how do the reasons stack up.

If we select the woman candidate, clearly a lessor candidate, but state the reason for selection is the need for diversity.

Is this the right answer but for the wrong reason – i.e right because we want more woman in senior management, but wrong reason because we should be looking for the best candidate.

Or is the wrong answer for the right reason. – i.e. the lessor candidate, but selected because we believe in diversity.

It would be easy to say that we should always choose the right answer for the right reason, i.e. select the man as he is the best candidate, and our reason is we want to have the best candidate in each position. But as shown, right and wrong can change based on your perspective and priority, e.g. if diversity is a priority then the picture is different. the woman then becomes the right answer for the right reason.

When we want to make significant cultural changes, such as increases in diversity, this may take significantly longer to implement, if we don’t have the right priorities set ¬†correctly, and we end up leaving managers in the position to define right and wrong them selves and give them the dilemma to resolve.

In reality, if both candidates are capable of doing the job, then there is maybe little risk when selecting either candidate.

The point of this post is not to suggest that we should make wrong decisions for the right reasons, or vice versa, or that we should always seek to make the right decision of the right reason.

The point here is to highlight it’s never black or white, there are always shades of grey, depending on how we view the problem, the decision and the reason.

Most important for us as leaders is to be able to explain why we made decision, why we think that we have made the right decision for the right reason. Whilst to others, it may actually seem that we have made the wrong decision for the wrong reasons.

People may not agree with our choice, but it might help them understand how we came to it.

Gordon Tredgold