Our Physician Need to Be Right Could Be a Drag to Creativity

by Francine Gaillour, MD

in Career Resilience & Fulfillment,Innovation and Entrepreneurship,Transformational Leadership

. . . . Ever had the experience of wanting to jump into a conversation or meeting and assert your opinion because you can barely stand it that people are soooo obviously going down the wrong path and it’s making you boil …

If I hadn’t learned this lesson the hard way over and over myself I wouldn’t be bringing it up, but ….

As physicians, we’re smart and we think we’re right a lot of the time. And we’re verbally pretty tough on other people during meetings.

(If you immediately said to yourself, “but we usually are right”, then you must go directly to doghouse for a short time out.)


What is the True Objective of a Meeting?

I’m bringing this up in the context of meetings, because that’s where most of the trouble occurs.

Contrary to popular thought, the objective of most meetings is not trivial: We gather in order to make something happen, to create something out of nothing, to make decisions that affect the future of many lives, to bring together people with different perspectives and hammer out a solution to a complex problem.

Key point: Hammer out a solution, not each other.

It’s not about whether you are smarter or know more than the other person, but can you collectively create a breakthrough? Can you launch a project, improve safety, automate your office, initiative a new service, reduce the budget, design a product, form a joint venture?

Key point: Being smart is not enough.

Your end-result is highly dependent on: a) The collective brain power in the room, and b) Your ability to meld your thoughts and perspective with others.

Key Strategy: You can be vocally and visually passionate about your ideas and opinions and still be productive and collaborative.

It’s the melding of ideas that’s a challenge for many physicians, so here are some suggestions for being passionate without shutting down everyone else.

Three Ways Be Constructive in Group Settings And Still be a Strong Vocal Advocate for Your Ideas:


#1 Manage your passion by using the phrase “this is something I feel strongly about” or “as you can tell I feel pretty passionate about this.” By signaling that your emotional crescendo reflects your passion, not disdain for the other, you foster melding of ideas.
#2 Listen to other ideas (this is so obvious I almost cringe at writing it down) and give them the benefit of being right by saying “that could work” before launching into your own ideas. Practice that phrase before your meeting.
#3 Take frequent breaks as a group. During the break it is likely that smaller side-bar “idea-melding” conversations will occur that will not happen in front of the larger group. This is a good face-saving in preparation for compromise.


I can recall many loud, high-powered, highly charged, and YET productive meetings, where all the participants felt excited to contribute their ideas and where something new was created or accomplished. It is like watching ideas elbow each other for air-time and dominance. Rather than being a “drag” on us the participants, these types of meetings foster creativity and solution-development.

Being smart is good, and in fact it’s real good. Now learn how to apply your smarts for the greater good. Toss your ideas into the ring and let the ideas slug it out without your personal need to be “right.”


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