Permissive Approach

3 ways to engage difficult people and build collaboration.

Think of a discussion that you know is important to have and that you have been avoiding. Perhaps you have given up on it because you don’t feel listened to. Maybe you are not addressing the issue because, in the past, you have had a bad experience with the person you need to speak to.

Sometimes bringing up an issue, challenge, or offering constructive feedback to your another is a sensitive task and requires a thoughtful approach. With your boss, it can be outright dangerous, or something we call a CLM, a “career limiting move”.

How do you do it? In our Amazon Top-10 business book, Step Up Lead In Six Moments That Matter, we talked about using a “permissive approach”.

This means that you ask the boss (or challenging co-worker) to tell you what time and place would be good to have a discussion. Here are three approaches for you to consider.

Find the one that works for you;

1. If I had a topic that I thought was important for you to hear, and may also be difficult for you to hear, what would be the right time and place to offer my observation?

2. I know I may be completely wrong and still, I think we have a roadblock and would like to brainstorm a solution with you. What could be the right time and place?

3. I’m hearing a buzz that may be of interest to you. It involves the way some people perceive you. If you are interested in hearing more about it, what would be the right time and place?

For all of these options, don’t suspend your intuition when using this approach. Remember what Einstein said, good decisions are a combination of head and heart. When approaching this person, if your intuition tells you that the time they picked is not a good one, believe your gut and reschedule. For example, if you said “when would you want to talk about this and they aggressively said “right now is GREAT”, clearly, this is not the right time.

If this happens, try saying something like, “thanks for being so flexible. I actually didn’t organize my information yet and would like to. What time tomorrow or the day after might work?” You could also say, “wow, you’re fast, thank you. Let me go collect some more information and how does tomorrow look on your calendar?”

Mostly we want you to avoid the suckers’ choice of thinking, “should or shouldn’t I have this discussion?”. Instead and using the techniques we just gave you. We would rather hear you ask, “what is the most intelligent way for me to have this discussion?” or “what is the right approach to having this discussion in a successful way?”

The best leaders rise above the anxiety of having a difficult discussion and practice ways of doing so effectively. We hope that today, you picked up at least one approach that works for you.

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