If you look closely at this picture you will see that 8 out of 26 letters are completely worn off. I purchased this Gateway laptop in July of 2008. I also purchased an extended warranty from Office Depot to cover hardware defects and malfunctions for 3 years.
Seems to me the keys are hardware. And not being able to read the letters on a keyboard that is less than 2 years old could be considered a materials defect. I have owned many PC’s over 24 years and never had this problem. So I called Office Depot Extended Warranty Support anticipating getting their help.
They asked me if when I pressed each key it worked. I said yes. And then they politely informed me that lettering rubbing off is not a hardware issue, at least not in their interpretation. Furthermore, they could not help me get the parts. I was on my own. I called the store where I bought it. They agreed with me but said there was nothing they could do. I tried calling Gateway, but as soon as they determined my computer was over a year old I reached an abrupt dead end. Their website redirected me to a reseller. Needless to say tracking down and ordering what I needed took time. I was annoyed. The money is not the issue – $5.99 a key is merely irritating. For me the real failure is a breakdown in our agreement. I called for help I thought I paid for and didn’t get it.
Who is right? Me of course…in my own mind anyway!
They can give me all the logic in the world to justify their interpretation of hardware defect and malfunction as it applies to keyboards. I don’t agree, but that is certainly their choice to make. In the process it seems they have lost sight of one very important thing: our relationship. This is my second Gateway laptop and I shop at Office Depot weekly.
Gateway and Microsoft have also done their share of pointing fingers at each other when it comes to problems with this particular PC. They are both very right about what is not their responsibility. My dissatisfaction has been building so while my keyboard problem may seem trivial to some, for me it is my “last straw”.
You could say we are both being right here. And it seems to me we both lose. My choice when it is time for a new computer is now clear: I will buy a Mac. It will cost me more and I will have to go through the pain of changing something I have not wanted to change. The companies involved may have lost a customer forever.
What does this have to do with leadership?
Everything we do and say has some element of interpretation involved. When things break down we can easily get caught in the minutia trying to prove our interpretations as “the truth”. We can create all kinds of rules to protect ourselves and our companies from being taken advantage of. We can rant and rave about just how wrong “they” are. But at what cost?
I am not a fan of the philosophy “the customer is always right” either. Far too often that philosophy results in relationships that are neither satisfying nor sustainable. I respect the need for everyone to develop and use their power of interpretation to set boundaries that serve their needs and commitments even if I don’t like it or agree with it. I have been told no many times and been perfectly fine with it.
It’s all about relationship.
When we are focused on our relationships we can much more easily easily see the moments when we get to choose: will we stick to our guns and justify how right we are OR will we be willing to step out of our point of view to see the other side so we can perhaps find a mutually satisfying outcome.
We don’t even have to give up our point of view to be able to listen to, comprehend and consider another completely different perspective. Worst case we learn something. And being truly listened too is a gift in and of itself. Yet still, being right can be very compelling. Don’t we just love hearing the words “you were right”?
But beware: being right can quickly devolve into righteousness. And righteousness makes us vulnerable, especially as a leader. Why? Because the moment we become righteous we stop listening. And when we can’t hear we miss things – important things.
What can make matters worse is that it can be hard to observe our own righteousness. Being right feels good. It feels, well, “right”. Then there are all those people who will jump on the bandwagon and reinforce just how right we are.
Don’t be fooled. Agreement does not equate to proving something is true. It may validate us. It may be useful in justifying our actions. But it is a poor substitute for listening to support critical thinking and mindful action.
In the end “Who is right?” is more often than not an irrelevant question. When being right becomes the prize chances are we have a blind spot. Unless we remain mindful of our goals and intentions we may never realize just how much that blind spot is costing us.
What do you think? Does righteousness make a leader vulnerable in your opinion? What do you think could be the cost of righteousness to a leader?
I’ll give one answer to the question of what could be the cost to start the ball rolling… Just as I felt powerless when trying to stand up to these big companies about my problems with their products, the people we lead may also feel powerless to address the problems that affect their effectiveness.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say!