Don’t Think, Just Write. Then Act.

This Throwback Thursday article is from the Summer 2014 issue of The Partner Channel Magazine. Catch the most current issue for more great sales, marketing, and leadership tips!

Remember sniglets? (They’re neologisms or newly-coined terms on their way to being accepted into mainstream language. They were all the rage in the late ’80s.) I think there should be a sniglet for the time between feeling something isn’t right, to taking action. Hmmmm. What could we call that?

  • Denialation (denial + duration)
  • Worsera (worse + era)
  • Hinderquarter (self-evident)

No matter what you call it, we all have been negatively impacted by the space between suspecting and correcting. Since we know how painful these timespans can be for everyone involved, why don’t we do something about it?

The truth is, we don’t really want the truth. Because knowing – really knowing – puts items on our to-do lists that we’d rather avoid. Take your resident technical guru who solves the trickiest of customer situations but is a bad, bad manager. Or how about that new pricing model a team spent weeks developing that should come with a slide rule and a crystal ball? Correcting these sticky situations takes courage, perseverance, and time, all of which seem hard to come by in our overly busy lives.

The short-lived relief we feel after avoiding action doesn’t even come close to outweighing the costly downside. The longer that complicated pricing model is in place, the harder it’s going to be to unravel the mess of transitioning customers to a new, simpler model. Worse yet are the beacons of badness emitted by managers radiating negative attitudes, sloppy behaviors, and unmet expectations through organizations like waves of contagion.

The more we think about these tricky situations, the more we convince ourselves that they’ll just work out or that things aren’t that bad. What’s really going on is that our subconscious mind is tricking us into inaction by planting seeds of fear and doubt. It’s not really my job to deal with this. I know she’s going to deny it and then make my life miserable if I bring this up. I’ll think about it next week. But next week brings more challenges that we avoid until the situation seems as impossible to unknot as a drawer full of tangled necklaces. 

On the prevention side, quick action is key. Get in the habit of writing down exactly what you’re thinking and feeling just after you experience that flash of frustration. Don’t think, just write. It’ll help you quiet those avoidance voices and identify specific behaviors you can discuss with your colleague…once you calm down, of course. While you’re still in fix-it mode, schedule a quick conversation with this person. Getting it on your calendars makes it real and unavoidable. Make it 15 minutes, and make it later the same day or first thing the next day. Do not let more than 12 hours pass.

If the situation has become a tangled mess, pen and paper are still the best place to start. At the top of a blank sheet, write these two headings: “I get frustrated when you…” and “Because it results in…” Fill up the sheet and then put it aside for a while. Looking at it with fresh eyes will help you see patterns and themes that are easier to address. Pull out two behaviors that seem to be the most detrimental. And then schedule that 15-minute conversation.

Whether you’re preventing or untangling, the 15-minute conversation should start with a thank you. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I appreciate it. The reason I want to talk one-on-one is I’ve noticed some issues with (the team, the project…) that are resulting in (missed deadlines, unmet customer expectations…), and I need your help to resolve these issues. And then pause. Either the person will ask what’s up or they’ll be silent, which often signals they know you’re going to raise issues. Almost always they know things aren’t going well. Almost always they know they’re part of the problem. Almost always they feel as frustrated as the rest of the team because they don’t have the time, resources, background, confidence, or skills to drive the desired results.

By raising the issue, you’re opening the door and letting in the light. By raising the issue after writing out your frustrations and identifying correctable behaviors, you’re dialing down the emotion and placing the attention on results.

Let’s start a movement. Let’s change the current frustration-to-fix pace from slow boat to bullet train. And then let’s make a new sniglet for rapid action. How about…fastfix? As in: let’s have a fastfix chat on that, okay? Sounds way better than okay to me!

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