not listening








My father’s patience with me was a constant.  I believe he was so patient because he helped create the reason patience was needed.  The first piece of advice or words of wisdom that I remember my dad giving me was, “you can do anything a boy can do, except pee on a tree.”

That was my dad.

He instilled a sense of independence, curiosity, pride and exploration in me.  Before I took shop in high school, I was using his power tools in the basement or under the deck to build things. I loved to explore and try things and he let me, while keeping an eye on me.

There were times I wanted to do something and I was convinced I was right or knew the right way to do it. I refused his help and said I could do it myself.  He patiently watched me fail and then gently asked if I wanted to know the right way.

The pride he taught me was to have pride in what I did and not let it stand in the way of asking for help.  I learned to ask why or why not instead of challenging the right way when I thought I was right.

Asking for help is not an easy thing to do, yet it is worthless if you are not going to listen to the answer and counterproductive if you are going to argue that you are right.

In all the years I have been coaching and writing resumes, I can count on one hand the number of clients who preferred to be right rather than listen to the professional advice they had paid for.

That is the beauty of owning your own company; you can choose not to work with certain clients.  There are clients I have referred to others because it became obvious, very quickly, that they wanted to be right.  They would pay well to argue with me just to be right in their own mind.  I think that is a waste of time and money.

It becomes a detriment in the workplace.

I have a very good friend who is a director in the financial industry.  She is extraordinarily brilliant in the ways of compliance. Her opinion is highly valued and sought after.  But there are times…

There was a project that she was called on due to her expertise and asked to consult.  The gentleman that requested her help fought her at every turn.  She could back up every recommendation with rules, regulations, examples and case studies yet he refused to listen.  He had to be right.

It became obvious, very quickly, on his team that he was not willing to listen to any input that could propel the project.  His primary objective was instead to be right, no matter the cost to the company, project or his team.  His respect level from his peers, team members and leadership plummeted.

I have another good friend that owns a marketing company.  She is amazingly talented in the ways of marketing.  Her clients reap measurable and immeasurable benefits from the work she does for them.  But there are times….

She will get a client who comes to her and tells her they need a complete revamp of their company.  She and her team go to work diving in to get all the information to create exactly what the client needs based on what they want.  Then in presenting the information, the client will tell her that they don’t think they should do it that way, they think this other way is the best way.

In each case I just want to ask two questions:

If you know so much, why did you ask for help in the first place? 

What is the cost of being right?

In paying someone for assistance, you are wasting your time and money; in the workplace, you are destroying your reputation.

The two women mentioned below are very close friends and we have one thing in common – we are a bit forthright.  In other words, we do ask the above two questions to those that asked for help.  You might think that we get a nasty rebuttal; but instead we normally get surprise.

Those that are insistent on being right normally do not realize their behavior.  They may be nervous about the situation or so engrossed in doing a good job that they fail to realize they have become their own worst enemy.

When pointed out in a gentle but firm way the priorities realign and the process continues smoothly.  But there are times….

Sometimes people are just buttheads.  Let’s face it, they just are and you cannot change that.  However, it is best to know what you are dealing with – someone who is so badly wants things done right that they go a little self-centered nuts or a true self-centered jerk.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a management style.  Ask your team for help then ignore them to prove you are the leader.  If this behavior continues the team no longer gives it their A game and the manager is left as an island alone, wondering what happened.

If your team is not engaging as much as you would like, perhaps you have been behaving in a not so team-like way.   It takes a bit of clean up after being called out for wanting to be right rather than getting help, yet it can be done.

The best way to avoid this is twofold:


Ask why or why not rather than standing firm that you are right. 

You will get the expertise or assistance that you need and perhaps learn a thing or two.  You will also show your team that their input matters and you put the project before the individual.

That is called a win-win.



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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.