by Nick Vaidya, Management Consultant and the Managing Editor of The CEO Entrepreneur Magazine
The other day, I was talking with someone about a start up idea. He is a very successful sales person and wanted my view on the concept. As we moved on with the discussion I realized that there were some strategic holes in his plan which I wanted to point out.
What I had not realized,
however, is that he had bought into the idea lock, stock, and barrel and
only wanted to hear me echo his feelings. The same day my daughter was
unsuccessfully trying to explain to her friend that unlike what she
thought, their common friend's behavior was not an affront. A few days
earlier, I was telling my wife to give up the idea of trying to go to
India in November when the chances of getting certain things done on
time was practically impossible, but it was a completely futile
Now these “not uncommon” interactions are not limited to friends and family members, they are an integral part of how the human mind works. Maybe it’s something to do with our natural instinct for self-preservation.
Or maybe our egos, fears, and greed gets the better
part of our intellect. I am not sure about that, but what I do know is
that we all get caught up in our own ideas so deeply that we do not see,
or want to see what is obvious to others. The numbers driven corporate
world has also had to bear the brunt of executives forging ahead bullheadedly with their convictions to the detriment of their
organizational goals, ignoring the logic of well prepared advisers.
There is more than one way to skin this cat, so to speak. Nobody has a definite set of answers. But here is one strategy that works really well for me. I call it the PAQ (Pause-Answer-Question) Method. The central idea behind this approach is to lead the listeners to see the consequences of their current approach or thinking. Let them arrive at your conclusions on their own.
PAUSE: When you realize that you have to say something which goes against the grain for the listener, pause to understand how the listener sees the situation and plan your communication beginning from his or her point of view and leading to yours before you state your position. Develop this attitude of restrained communication. It takes time but you will become more effective with continued practice.
ANSWER: While you frame your thoughts based upon the position of the listener make a conscious assessment of his or her emotional stance. People don’t see reason when they are emotionally attached to certain ideas. So emotion is where you have to do the real work. Answer the question: What is the degree of awareness and willingness of the listener? Plan the effect you wish to seek from the interaction based on what is possible in the given situation.
Clearly define what you seek from the interaction. Remember, you can’t give them the solution until they see the real problem and are ready to listen to you. You would be wasting your breath otherwise. Remember, the real problem is that they have not thought through the idea in question completely as they are bonded emotionally to their position.
QUESTION: Frame your desired effect as a set of questions the answers to which should lead to the point you want to make. Lead your listeners to discovering the consequences of their line of thinking on their own. For example avoid saying directly why business A will not succeed like Business B because A and B are fundamentally different, which is unlike what the person believed so far. Instead you could ask one or more of the following questions:
As you talk about the issue remove the word ‘but’, ’should’ and the like from your conversation. Substitute them with “and.”
Essentially, you are not going to tell them what they should be doing or how they are wrong; you are only going to provide them with various other options or perspectives, thus helping them really think through the idea.
When you take this approach you will notice a remarkable difference in your communication. Try, experiment, and internalize this process, practice it in imaginary conversations until it becomes your second nature. As you use this method regularly you will have a lot more buy-in for your idea and the change you expect will be practically guaranteed in most situations, unless of course if you were wrong to begin with. This process of communication takes longer but it gets the job done and also saves you from putting your foot in your mouth.
About Nick Vaidya
Nick Vaidya did his graduate and doctoral work in business and psychometrics at the Texas A&M University, where he has also served as a faculty. His career straddles sales, marketing, and advertising. Based in Austin, TX, Nick has consulted with companies like Microsoft, Dell, eBay, Qwest, IBM, and also several mid sized firms. His consulting practice focuses on business profitability management and decision making. He works with both large and midsized technology driven firms. Nick has served as a senior advisor with the Chairman's Strategy Team at a Fortune 100 firm, and was responsible for managing the profitability of almost half the company. Currently, Nick is focused on exploring the applications of 80|20 principles to understand the root causes of “Failure-To-Thrive” among small to mid size enterprises.
Nick is the Managing Partner of The 8020Strategy Group, the President of the Global Alliance of CEO's, and the Managing Editor of The CEO Entrepreneur Magazine (http://www.8020ceo.com). The magazine has been created and designed to promote collaboration among CEOs, and to inform and inspire the community towards making businesses more efficient. For keynote addresses, workshops, and consulting engagements, Nick can be reached at nickvaidya @ 8020ceo.com(remove the spaces) or 512 257 7868.
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