Pedants, man 06 Nov 2014
A sure fire way to demotivate those around you is to be a vampire-like self-righteous pedant, sucking the life out of others, perhaps unknowingly.

Taking pride in your work, wanting the best from your team, and paying attention to the details are great qualities to possess. When the desire to do well leads to focusing on all of the minutiae that others have contributed and staking a claim in the ground that “my opinion matters most”, the attrition begins. Over time, it beats everyone else down, empties our tanks, and well, makes us feel like crap.

Being right and always having your voice matter the most isn’t the most effective way to work in a team. Even if you are always right –which statistically is unlikely– you’re working against the team with this mindset.

Everybody deserves to feel good about their contributions. We are different – our experiences, history, knowledge, quirks, ways we learn, etc– and need to be able to express those differences in our contributions.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t provide feedback to others, but we should more gracious when providing feedback. Are we making a suggestion based on how we would have done it or are we pointing out there’s an actual issue that should be addressed before moving on.

Suggestive feedback plants seeds that allows people to process information on their own. Part of the power of a suggestion is that there’s no expectation that someone take it. This takes a level of trust and respect because you’re allowing your teammate think for themselves and make their own decision. This is a powerful thing which aids in building strong teams.

I’ll admit, not everything is a suggestion. There are times to stop the line. These are the good things to provide feedback on, discuss together, and figure out how to resolve. The trick is that “stop the line” issues really need to be worthy of stopping the line. Treating personal preferences as urgent concerns makes a mountain out of mole hill and lays the ground work for a battle to ensue.

Battles are draining. Nobody wants to battle. We want thoughtful, respectful discussion, possibly even debate. There will be times to vehemently disagree, but that can’t be every single thing, every single time. This only encourages team members to turn their brain off and acquiesce to the will of the resident pedant.

This is not healthy. Losing the ability to have a variety of perspectives and opinions is a huge detriment to a team. But, this is exactly what happens when having an opinion becomes more exhausting than acquiescing to someone else’s. Nobody wants to work with others that make them feel this way.

I’ve worked with people who drain you dry and worked with people who you build you up. I know that I’ve also been the pedant. I’m not proud of this and I’ve been humbled so many times now that I see the detriment of the pedant, of being right, of thinking my opinion is the one right way.

These days I try very hard to allow others to make their own decisions and mistakes, especially when I provide feedback. The more I talk at people the less likely I’ll have the affect I was shooting for. But when I lay out a suggestion and my own rationale, let their brain wrestle with it over time, maybe, just maybe, I’ll end up having convinced them of a new approach or perspective. Or, they may come back after digesting it and change my mind. But this doesn’t happen when you talk at people and try to impose your preference on every tiny thing.

The lesson I keep having to learn is that the the concept of “right” is mostly subjective. Over time our own opinions change. Does it mean we were wrong up until our current opinion? Sometimes it does, but most of the time it’s recognizing the different places we’ve been on our own journey and allowing ourselves to have been on that journey and to have grown.

If we can afford ourselves that acknowledgement we should extend it to those we work with and in return hope they extend it back to us. Maybe then we can realize the potential our teams are capable of.

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