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Archive for 2013

Crucial Conversations, Part 2

December 23rd, 2013 // Tom Doescher //
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This is a continuation of our key takeaways from a wonderful book entitled Crucial Conversations. Here goes …

  1. Stay alert for the moment a conversation turns from a routine or harmless discussion into a crucial one. As you anticipate entering a tough conversation, pay heed to the fact that you’re about to enter the danger zone.
  2. When others start forcing their opinions into the pool of meaning, it’s often because they figure that you’re trying to win (versus have a healthy dialogue), and they believe they need to do the same.
  3. The instant people perceive disrespect in a conversation, the interaction is no longer about the original purpose — it is now about defending dignity. (Editorial comment: No matter what, we need to behave as healthy adults.)
  4. When you’ve made a mistake that has hurt someone, start with an apology. (Click here to read our November 11, 2013, blog post.)
  5. As already mentioned, often both parties are trying to force their view. Say to the other person, “I commit to stay in this discussion until we have a solution both of us are happy with.”
  6. Other people don’t make you mad; you and only you create your strong emotions. You either find a way to master them, or you fall hostage to them.
  7. Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we “tell ourselves a story.” We add meaning, motive, and judgment to the action we observed (i.e., he doesn’t trust me, thinks I am weak, etc.). Then we respond with emotion. Don’t confuse stories with facts. (Editorial comment: This point is huge. Has anyone ever said to you, “I know what he is thinking”? How do they know?)
  8. The three most common unhealthy stories: Victim Stories — “It’s not my fault”; Villain Stories — “It’s all your fault”; and Helpless Stories — “There’s nothing else I can do.”

We’ll continue this discussion in two weeks. As we recommended in our last blog post, there is so much meat here, you may want to print this list and keep it nearby so you can reference it.

Crucial Conversations

December 9th, 2013 // Tom Doescher // 1 Comment
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Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler is the most recent Top Picks entry on our Book List. It was actually published in 2002, and we somehow missed it. This book is so practical and applicable; we have decided to memorialize the key points in our blog. In case you don’t have the time to read it, you will at least get our main takeaways — with, of course, some editorial comments. Here goes…

  1. A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. (Editorial comment: We have several of those every week.)
  2. We usually handle crucial conversations one of three ways: we avoid them; we face them and handle them poorly; or we face them and handle them well.
  3. The negative feelings we hold in, the emotional pain we suffer, and the constant battering we endure as we stumble our way through unhealthy conversations slowly eats away at our “health.”
  4. At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information, or a dialogue.
  5. Each of us enters conversations with our own opinions, feelings, theories, and experiences about the topic at hand.
  6. Remember that the only person you can directly control is yourself.
  7. First focus on “what you really want for yourself, for others, and for the relationship.” What is the mutual purpose of the conversation?
  8. Wanting to win or seeking revenge is a dialogue-killer.

This topic will be continued in two weeks. There is so much meat here, you may want to print this list and keep it nearby so you can reference it.

That’s good business. Or is it?

November 25th, 2013 // Tom Doescher //
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Our Internet service is directly billed to our credit card, and we earn points that enable us to go skiing. A few months ago, the charge to our credit card unexpectedly increased 50 percent — so we contacted the service provider. After a lengthy, awkward conversation, the customer service rep actually reduced our monthly fee by 15 percent from what we paid the prior year.

We were sharing this story with some business colleagues and we told them that what really upset us was the fact that we knew many people, who would just accept the charge, and not ask questions or jump through the required hoops to get the charge adjusted. At the end of the conversation, our colleagues stated that what our service provider had done was, in their estimation, “good business.” Indeed, if maximizing profit in the short run is your business goal, then this sneaky tactic is a fantastic idea. But those of us who are in business for the long run believe it is a horrible practice.

We checked our service provider’s website, and they clearly profess that their customers come first. Take a minute to consider this: Do your business practices really put the customer first? In “I’m Sorry”, we wrote about the idea of integrity. If that’s not a trait you’re willing to vigorously pursue, please don’t promise that the customer is No. 1, and then turn around and behave like our Internet provider. In our opinion, it would be better to remain silent on the subject.

I’m sorry

November 11th, 2013 // Tom Doescher //
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Why are those words so hard to say? We’re currently reading a great book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson and several other authors. It’s a book we would recommend to almost anyone because it will help you in business, at home, or in any relationship. We will probably comment on it more in another blog, but today we wanted to highlight one of the authors’ recommendations. They suggest that when you realize you’ve made a mistake, it’s important to start with an “apology,” which they define as a statement that sincerely expresses your sorrow for your role in causing difficulty for others. Many of us have received what we called “qualified apologies,” and maybe we’ve even delivered a few — something along the lines of, “I am sorry you felt that way about me embarrassing you in front of your friends.”

The other day we had an episode at our auto dealership. We’ve done business with them for a long time, and we’ve always received great service and had positive experiences. We were leasing a new vehicle, and we noticed a slight problem in the transaction. When we brought the problem to their attention, the finance manager took total responsibility and offered an unqualified apology for his oversight. He also solved the problem immediately.

Do you and your team take total responsibility for customer/client problems, or do you place blame elsewhere?

In the story above, the dealership made a mistake — but the way they handled it has made us even bigger fans of their establishment. We all make mistakes; it’s how we handle them that separate the great from the average.

Happy associates equal delighted customers/clients, part 3

October 28th, 2013 // Tom Doescher //
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The final job misery factor, according to Patrick Lencioni (see part 1 and part 2), is immeasurement. Team members need to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. Question/discovery No. 1 in the book First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham, is: Do I know what is expected of me at work? This one is somewhat counterintuitive. It seems like accountability has become a bad/evil word. But the truth is, people want to be held accountable.

Another one of our all-time favorite books is Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, written by Louis Gerstner. It is the story of how he and his team saved IBM in the early 1990s. In his concluding comments, Gerstner speaks about measurement. He says, “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

Do you measure what is important to your business success? Do all of your team members have clear goals? We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories about team members who were demotivated because they did not receive any specific — or even any fuzzy — goals. They did their best, only to be criticized by their supervisor, who would say, “That’s not what I want or what we need.”

The cool thing about attacking these three traits — anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement — is that they are not rocket science or proprietary, and they do not cost any extra money. As a well-known advertisement proclaims, “Just Do It!”

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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