I Have Permission To Act Badly

Why is it that when people are mega competent in their professional role, they can justify giving themselves permission to act badly in their relationship or leadership roles?  It is far too common that we see beliefs and behaviors that are technically critical to success in a professional role, disrupt the team and relationships.  And the results could end up with team of highly capable experts just wanting to kill each other.  Recently we worked with a group of very skilled surgeons, who carry a massive level of responsibility in saving lives.  These people are skilled at an almost stellar level.  In the operating room, it is imperative that they are strong willed, make quick decisions, take charge, and believe they are right in their display of confidence.  They speak, people listen, or patients die.  Now when these same surgeons individually exhibit these behaviors in their role on the executive team to make organizational decisions, a strong will, believing they are solely right, and making quick decisions, doesn’t save an organizational life, it can literally cause an organizational death.  The fallacy here is the phrase; “have to”.  As one physician stated, “we have to be strong willed people to do our job, therefore we have to be strong willed outside of the operating room because that’s just who we are”.

The question here is why do people give themselves permission to behave in a way that knowingly causes relationship problems and blows up the team?  In this case they permit themselves to act badly because they have relinquished control of their choices to behave better to a mindset of negative absoluteness.  In their minds they are strong willed both in and out of the operating room and there is nothing they can do about it.  They literally believe acting in a way that sponsors good relationships is outside of their control and this thinking is not open for discussion.  “I am who I am and that’s the end of it”.

To successfully change this thinking in a way that better fosters relationships outside of the operating room, it is imperative to understand what drives it.   What drives it is the fundamental belief of “I’m always right”.  Next let’s articulate the reason for being right and the value it inherently has.  What does always being right get you.  Inside the operating room this belief saves lives.  The reason has a distinct value and it is easy to articulate that value.  There is an obvious and definable connection between being right and saving lives.  Again, a strong will is the basis of greatness.  But exactly what does the strong will get a person on a team or in a leadership position?  Can this same person articulate the connection between a strong will (being right), and a positive outcome for the team?  It is not uncommon for an individual to have even considered this.  After all, “I am who I am” and rarely is there even a connection as to how this impacts the team because people don’t articulate what it leads to.  They need to see not just the disconnect it causes with a team, but the negative impact it has with destroying trust on the team.

When a very technically competent teammate articulates their role on the team, the goal of the team, and the impact their beliefs and behaviors have on the team, they can better understand that being right is more destructive than helpful, and that they have to make a change if the team is to function at its best.  They need to see the team size reason from giving up “being right” and that having a strong will does not necessarily lead to team success.  Being right at all costs prevents the team from meeting bigger team goals and that a collective group of strong wills does not lead to any valuable reasons.  Being right on a team does not get you anything.   Once understood, then there can now be a connection to better choices, and that “I am who I am” needs to change for the team.  Acting in a way that fosters good team results really is a choice, and the “I am strong willed” really is not the end of it and does not give a person permission to act badly.