You’re sitting at your desk. A team member, whom we’ll call Dan, comes up to you and says:
“Can we talk about the xyz project? I’m concerned that we aren’t going to achieve the cost savings we’re targeting.”
Part of you thinks you’d better listen up, this could be serious—yet another part of you has your heart sinking and wishing for an easier road ahead.
Dan’s distress might be justified—but the way he’s presenting his thoughts probably has you wishing he wasn’t standing at your desk right now. If only he wouldn’t talk about problems so much of the time!
This time, imagine Dan coming up to you and saying:
“Can we talk about the xyz project? I’d like to talk about some ideas that might help us achieve the cost savings we’re targeting.”
Wouldn’t you be more welcoming of Dan and his thoughts in this scenario?
There’s actually not much difference in the words used in the two scenarios—but what a difference the small difference makes.
What Do Your Conversational Habits Look Like?
I should mention that these scenarios didn’t spring out of the blue into my mind…
I’ve been noticing that some of the leaders I coach have had a habit of putting their “concerns” on the table, a habit of talking about problems—rather than seizing the chance to provoke receptivity by talking about “solutions” and putting their fresh ideas on the table.
I’d put money on the fact that your boss is probably like Dan’s boss—when Dan talks about “concerns” and “problems”, his boss switches off. When Dan talks about “solutions” and “fresh ideas”, his boss is receptive.
Where might you sit on the “concerns/problems” and “solutions/fresh ideas” continuum?
If you’re too close to the “concerns/problems” end, remember that “concerns” and ”problems” are emotionally loaded words that are likely to put the other person on guard, perhaps even on the defensive. This is not what you want if you intend to positively influence them .
Your Leadership Call To Action
Which conversational habits have been popping out of your mouth?
Is it time for you to lift the receptivity to what you’re saying by talking “solutions” and “fresh ideas”?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.