The Line Between Self-Confidence and Egotism

0:00:10.2 S1: Welcome to the Terminal Value Podcast, where each episode provides in-depth insight about the long-term value of companies and ideas in our current world, your host for this podcast is Doug Utberg, the founder and principal consultant for Business of Life, LLC.

Welcome to the Terminal Value Podcast. I have Jennifer Thornton on the line with 304 Coaching. Apologies for my misstep there, and what we are going to talk about today is Addiction to Being Right. Now, this is one, especially all of us type A’s out in the audience, which based on the demographics of the audience is just about all of us, that can maybe hit a little closer to home than a lot of us are comfortable with. Just because, when you have people who are intelligent, motivated, fast-moving, hard, chargers, there’s a tendency to think that everything you say or do is right. Which of course is not the case, but of course, it’s always easier to see it in somebody else. What’s really hard is to see it in yourself. So Jennifer, let me know if I’ve just utterly butchered the topic or please fill in all the gaps ’cause I’m sure there are many.

0:01:25.9 S2: So thank you for having me on the show. And you landed it. Just right. You are right in how you landed it. How’s that? We’ll start off with you being right. And, because I told you you were right, you got a little hit of dopamine, and that is a substance that our brain likes to be addicted to. Which is how the addiction to being right starts.

When we’re right, we get a dopamine hit, just like we would, if we had an addiction to shopping or a substance or sugar or any of those things. There’s been studies that show that when you hook up all those little things to someone’s head and they say give every person their addiction, being addicted to being right, fires off in the exact same way as being addicted to a substance or shopping or anything else out there. We get addicted to that dopamine hit, so I gave you a little and hope that I’ll get you started today.

0:02:20.2 S1: Alright, excellent. Well, I don’t know, maybe it’s not. I think for the conversation, what we’re really talking about here is that, of course being right there’s a very self-reinforcing positive effect. But the problem is, there’s a really thin, basically invisible line between self-confidence and egotism. The really, really hard part, especially when you’re talking about yourself, is to figure out when have I crossed over that line, and how do I get back, and how do I avoid getting back without getting so down on myself that I completely lose confidence?

I think that’s the thing that everybody has to deal with, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, you are not going to be successful unless you are self-confident. There’s absolutely no way you’re not gonna make it through the nose, you’re not gonna make it through the days, weeks, and months of just paralyzing self-doubt unless you have confidence. But if you can’t modulate that it’ll turn into egotism which can be destructive. So please share your insights, because I know you’ve done a lot of work in this realm.

0:03:32.5 S2: What’s interesting about being right is again, you’re right. As an entrepreneur, I have my own business and jumped into that realm several years ago and I do have to have a level of confidence towards my vision. I have to have a level of confidence towards big broad decisions we are making as an organization. But, where I can’t always be right is when I hire an expert to be an expert. As an entrepreneur, I can’t be an expert in accounting and marketing, and graphic design and all the things it takes to run my business. I have a team of 10 people, and they specifically have jobs, and in our organization, we talk a lot about the fact that if you’re not the expert in it then you’re there to learn. Now, I’m also there to ask questions because again, I have to know how is this gonna fit into my vision, but when someone comes to me and they’re an expert and they’re saying, this is really how I wanna go, if I don’t think it’s the right way to go, instead of just saying, “No”, or “do it my way”, and go into this addiction to being right, I pause and I say, “Here’s the deal, I don’t see your view, I don’t see the direction but change my mind”.

0:04:49.8 S2: So, that opens up the conversation, it tells that person, I’m not on the same page, because we have to have honesty in the workplace, but then I’m open to them changing my mind and I’m not attached being right or needing to be right and that I can’t hear their viewpoints, and when I say that, they stop and say, Well, here’s the research, or Here’s why… Or, here’s what I’m thinking, or, Here’s this impact, I get to learn from them. And every once in a while, I guess what I change my mind. But no matter what, I’m always smarter after a conversation with them when I’m asking to change my mind because they have to teach me how they’re thinking, and it’s just a really fun way to run the business, in a way to run the business where none of us get addicted to our own opinions, ’cause sometimes we have to defend them.

0:05:35.7 S1: Well, I was gonna say, or another thing you could do is what I effectually call the manager value add, which is where you insist that some tiny change that has absolutely nothing to do with the material content or output be made. Absolutely, and there’s way too much of that I call that vanity work, and that’s that work in an organization that really has no value or no impact, but there’s somewhere someone on the executive team that just likes every single level… I’ve seen it every single level, a picky changes that have absolutely nothing to do with the meaning or quality of the output.

0:06:14.8 S2: But it’s endemic. Yeah, and it’s frustrating for those people who work for you, it’s another thing that I think as leaders, we have to look at, and we have to think about efficiencies, we have to think about putting people’s energy and the places that are gonna impact our company and when we start it picking stuff that doesn’t matter, or some of my favorites, like you get a new software system that it kicks out these beautiful reports and an executive doesn’t wanna learn the report to someone takes all that and then re-does it the old way, and I’m like, you know, stuff like that makes me crazy in the workplace, but it’s because we’re addicted to how we’ve done it, or we’re a rod, or it has to be our way, we’re creating all this frustration and people are wasting energy on things that are not impacting our business, and then we get mad ’cause they’re not impacting our business when again, we cause it…

0:07:00.6 S1: Yeah, precisely. Precisely. Okay, well, you just gave us one tool for overcoming addiction to being right. Are there any other tips or tricks… I think this is actually really important, especially for people who are in a leadership capacity, which in one way or another should be everybody who’s listening to this podcast, because the things, unless you… Unless you have some… A, have somebody who you’ve empowered to tell you When you’re straying off the reservation and then be… You actually listen to them. There is no way to know your addiction to being right. Unless you can self-diagnose.

0:07:36.4 S2: And there are some tools to self-diagnosing, so one of the tools that when I’m working with the executives, and I think there might be an issue here, one of the things that I ask them to do is get their team in a room and ask them a really difficult question. And if the room falls silent and they’re all kinda looking down looking at each other, they’re waiting for you to tell them how they’re supposed to be, then you’ve absolutely been addicted to being right because I don’t feel moral telling you the truth. And if your team isn’t willing to tell you the truth… Your business is in trouble. You’ve got to have an environment where people are willing to tell you the truth. The other thing I ask people to do is on their drive home, ask themselves, How many times did I hear someone else’s decision, how many times did I learned something new, how many times that I think I wanted to go down once and I changed my mind or I went down a different… Based on the information, I learned, if you don’t have a couple of those every single day as an executive, then you are living in a world where your opinion is keying, Where you’re probably overly managing, you’re probably exhausted on your way home because you’re overly managing your team and you’re probably thinking instead of, I’m so excited they brought this to my attention, or I can’t believe they had that idea, you’re probably thinking, Why can’t my team make any decision without me, why can’t they bring me good ideas? Why Y-Y? And again, I always ask people when you keep saying that to yourself, there’s something about your language, the way you lead, and tell people don’t make a decision.

0:09:04.0 S2: Just going to be told what to do.

0:09:06.2 S1: Well, and especially if you’re the one in charge, then your team is… If we make the simplifying assumption that your team is all people who are reasonably capable, intelligent and intelligent, which generally speaking, I’ve found that most people are reasonably capable and intelligent, it’s just generally speaking, the… Most people really don’t like conflict and they really don’t like to swim upstream, and so if they figure out, Okay, you know what, basically I just have to do whatever the boss says, Then they very quickly figure out that it’s life way easier if they just conform and so if you assume that your people are reasonably okay, full intelligent, which most are, but you’re always saying, Well, they’ve never taken initial, well, they never… That’s really a new problem. Not so much, not so much. Is it that not… That could be really hard for people who met…

0:09:57.3 S2: Doug works with schools, businesses and non-profits to optimize their costs without layoffs, the best part is that he is only paid for successful projects, so you have zero risk to learn more, visit Doug business dot com or schedule time to talk about your business at meat does.

0:10:18.7 S1: It can be hard for the people at MIT, and it’s all so hard because we don’t want more and we don’t always see it.

0:10:26.0 S2: I get the privilege of seeing things from an outsider’s perspective as a coach and a consultant, so when I walk in, it’s just like red flags everywhere and sirens are going off, and it’s just clear as day. But when you’re in it, it’s really hard to see it at times, and that’s why it’s important to step back and watch the behaviors of your team and you changing your language so that you are kind of getting their brain to think about things a little different, and so if your team comes to you and there’s some big decisions, I don’t know, around marketing and they’re getting your sign off and you’re like, Well, do you like a Mr. C, instead of saying I like be… Say, You know what, if you were me, what decision would you make if you couldn’t fall and you could in any of these were right that you know one is a little gonna be just the one that was gonna set us apart, which would it be… And so your practice or you’re in that conversation, you’re part of the decision that you’re not making people’s decisions for them, and the more you do that, the better they’re gonna get about making decisions in which you align with you because they’re learning how to align, but they’re not willing, or they’re not learning how to just ask to us to say, Okay, yeah, sure.

0:11:40.7 S2: They’re learning how to think for you and as an executive on so much time during your day, if you can get your team to think in the way in which you think or get comfortable driving your business in new ways, your business will do better and you’re gonna be a lot happier in your job.

0:11:55.7 S1: Absolutely wonderful, wonderful advice. Let’s see, so let’s kinda go down the rabbit hole a little further, ’cause we’ve really been talking about the self-diagnosis, I think just about everybody can see it and you can see the addiction to being right and somebody else. Now, how would you say if that’s something you see in someone else, how do you bring that up to them without threatening them, or is that a bridge that can’t be crossed?

0:12:28.3 S2: Well, most people who are doing to being right don’t necessarily like being called out on it because clearly that takeaway that… Yeah, strangely enough, right? So you do have to tread water in a way in which to get you heard and makes an impact, and so when I coach people who maybe are working for with the CEO or someone who’s really tough in that area, we start to think about how can we be strategic and getting the voice heard, and so some of the ways you can do that is if you know where you need to go. The boss is like, hands on the fist. Now we’re going this way, and you can see we’re going off the cliff, you can say things like, Are you open to hearing more information that might help you see a different viewpoint, are you open to me playing doubles advocate? To see where that take us. Because you’re inviting them, begin to a conversation, you’re not telling them they’re wrong, and here’s the one thing I don’t like, they don’t like the concept of making them think it’s your idea or their idea, that’s just… I don’t know what pills…

0:13:30.4 S2: Arkit feels a little passive-aggressive, but a lot… Or a lot of pass aggressive, right? So the thing that’s important is to think about how do you engage them in a conversation. They still see your value, because when you make it their idea, you’re giving up your vote, you’re giving up your impact, you’re telling the boss, or you were really feeding into that addiction, and so it’s important to invite them into conversations, get them curious, and if they get curious, then you can provide information, they may change their mind, and it’s really kind of the backwards version of saying, change my mind, the boss isn’t saying it, but the employee is opening that door so that the supervisor can learn something new, can… At least if they’re gonna keep their decision, know where we’re going on that cliff, at least it’s not in patan secret, and I think it makes a huge… And hope you can engage in that conversation.

0:14:24.3 S1: Excellent, excellent. Wow, that’s… So yeah, for everybody listening, this is a power-packed episode of value, ’cause I think we’re only about What, about 13 or so minutes in, and you’ve already give us some singers. Okay, well, are there any questions I didn’t ask, but I should have?

0:14:41.8 S2: Oh, that’s one of my very favorite questions, I think that… The question that I love to answer is, how do you prevent the addiction from happening? And so when I think about that question, that is about really understanding how do you have a growth mindset, and we hear that all the time, is thrown around all the time, but what truly does having a growth mindset like sound like… And there are things that you can say to yourself when things happen, say a difficult time happens, or you’ve got something, a big decision going on, you can say things to yourself or your team, what could go right to her? And too often, when we are in decision-making, we always say, Okay, what could go wrong, and then we prevent it from going wrong, well, as soon as you say what could go wrong, your brain starts firing off stress chemicals, which what starts to decrease your access to your prefrontal cortex, which is the good stuff, so when you say What could go right, then the team is thinking about… It’s the same work, but you’re thinking about it in a way in which you have positive, happy chemicals going offers a stress.

0:15:51.0 S1: Compass, because I think there’s something really, really impactful you said, and I don’t wanna let you walk past it too fast, where you said… When you say What can go wrong, you go straight prefrontal cortex, I’m contain myself here to one of the more primitive parts of your brain, but what’s really important to understand is that once you move past your prefrontal cortex, the whole notion of rational thought out the window, what that means is that by definition means your decisions will be emotional and biased, and so when you ask What could go right, what that’s really saying is you really need to think through this rationally, because otherwise you’ll just kick right into bias, emotional decision-making and that’s where you start seeing change aversion, or that’s the… Yes. Change, resistance, loss aversion, all the cognitive biases, this is actually where you’ll actually see… And people make emotional need drip decisions. This is where a lot of the cognitive biases that actually move against people in different minority classes, whether it’s minority race or whether it’s females or whatever, is because people will make some kind of emotional need decision that they’re not really thinking about, but anything that you’re not consciously thinking about is going to be based on your subconscious biases, and I think that’s something that a lot of people really don’t fully grasp…

0:17:24.2 S1: That’s critically important.

0:17:27.0 S2: It’s critically important, and I use the analogy of a scale now, it’s not perfect like this, but just imagine as your fear goes up and your permit marine takes over your access to your prefrontal cortex kinda goes down, which makes you more emotional, which creates more fear and creates and then it starts to go down is the higher your fear growth goes up, and so I think one of the key traits and a strong leader is they know how to lead with a reduction of her… ’cause the more you reduce fear within your team, the more access they have to all that good stuff you just talked about, collaboration, ideas, innovation, confidence, everything you need is there. But unfortunately, the way we were taught to lead in the 19, early 1900s, the leadership books, I still get sold today, they were created in a time period in which things didn’t move quite as fast as they moved today, it was different types of environments, and it was before we knew anything about the brain, and though we think we know a lot today, every single day, we learn more, and to be a great leader of the future, you have to understand the stuff that you were just talking about, I talk about and have to understand the brain, because you can use it to our benefit.

0:18:43.1 S2: Into that person’s benefit, better mental health. Better results, better team functions. It’s all good stuff. Yeah.

0:18:50.6 S1: Outstanding, outstanding content here. So yeah, everybody has definitely gotten their value out of today’s episode, can you tell us a little more just about your business and where people can learn some more.

0:19:03.0 S2: So you can connect with me and continue the conversation at Jen Thornton on LinkedIn. You can also check out our website at We have some tools you can download and some resources there, and love to continue the conversation.

0:19:17.4 S1: Outstanding. Well, hey, I really appreciate your time today and… Excellent, excellent conversation. Thank you so much, have a great day. You too. Thanks very much for the six days episode. And what I would actually like you to do right now is to give me your thoughts, so I would say… If you could go to feedback, doctrinal, value Podcast dot com and just let me know what you think. Let me know your thoughts, let me know if there’s anything to really like about this show, there’s any questions you have, or if there’s anything as you go, could do better. Once again, that site is feedback, terminal value Podcast dot com, I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and be able to… One, thank you for listening to the terminal value podcast. Share it with your friends by sending them to terminal value Podcast dot com. For more information, please visit business life LLC dot com for full access to dogs products services. All Rights Reserved, no part of this broadcast produced in any form by any means without written permission from business of life LLC, all trademarks and brands referred to hearing are the property of their respective owners.

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