Attack the Idea, Not the Person
With the successful launch of our new book, “Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter” and with the global success of our best-selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations” (now with over 100,000 in print), we are offering you some of our best insights and practices to create an Accountability Culture in, and generate leadership at every level of your organization.
Henry Evans, Managing Partner, and Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate at Dynamic Results, are co-authors of “Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter”. They are talking today about a problem we call ‘terminal politeness’.
Follow Colm and Henry on Twitter: @DrColmFoster @HenryJEvans
We often experience and diagnose terminal politeness in client organizations we work with. What we mean is, sometimes people are avoiding critical dialogues that they would be much better served having. This could be because they don’t recognize the need to have them, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, they don’t want to overload someone or they might be afraid of how the other person might react. Whatever their reasons are, avoiding these critical issues can lead to a state of mediocrity. It can sometimes lead to people thinking, feeling and acting like we are okay just as we are and we have no need to improve.
While that may be and feel okay at the time, if you have a dynamic environment and/or a competitor who is willing to have these discussions real time, it can lead you and your team having to have these critical conversations when it is too late. We believe the answer is to generate constructive conflict in your organization.
Imagine a situation where I might say something that is completely stupid. How would you respond to that idea, demonstrating constructive conflict?
We do strategic planning and leadership team offsites for clients, they take all day, I think we ought to get into the hot dog business! Our clients have to eat, why should we make money on feeding them?
Attack the Idea:
Henry, generally, I like and agree with your ideas. But, I am struggling to understand how getting into food service is going to serve our business, what might I be missing?
What did Colm just do? He expressed confidence in our relationship and in my capability. Afterward, he directly attacked my idea without me being personally attacked and perhaps more importantly, without any need to defend myself.
Here is an example when we were facilitating a meeting with clients. They were trying to solve a major cash flow problem. One of them suggests, maybe we should liquidate all of our inventory? His colleague said, hey, that’s a stupid idea. We will have nothing to sell and you will create a customer service disaster.
That executive could have expressed that same sentiment in a slightly different way. It might have sounded like this: I know that you are looking for solutions that are going to generate quick cash flow for us. I also know you are committed to maintaining a high level of customer service, but, I am really failing to see how your last suggestion is going to do that. I think it would cause serious interruption to our service levels and what I would like to know from you is how can we maintain our service levels and still generate a quick cash flow?
In short, you can avoid terminal politeness by generating appropriate, healthy conflict. One of the ways to do this is to attack the idea, not the person. You can get a deep dive on this in our new book, “Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter”.
Keep in mind, the other person is the judge of whether you have done this effectively or not. If they felt attacked, you have to show up differently with them next time.
We always look forward to bringing you real life examples in our blogs. If you and your team ever want to do a deep dive on stepping up, contact us for information on keynotes, workshops and custom programs meant to ignite leadership at every level of your organization.
For more information on how to bring the method to your team or about any of the services we offer, contact Ede Ericson Cardell, Director of Operations at [email protected] or 214-742-1403 x 106.
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