Musings from the CU Suite

May 15, 2012

Please, Let Me Fix You...

Written by Anthony Demangone

So much of management is communication.  What you say often takes a back seat to how you say it.

With that in mind, I urge you to read Why Fixers Often Fail. (IdeaArchitects.org.)  The author argues this: The last thing you should do when fixing a problem is to infer that the person or process is broken. Here's a snippet.

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Very few individuals or organizations want to be talked about as if they need to be fixed.

Doing so implies that we're broken or I'm broken.  Doing so turns us into the objects of attention or effort from someone else who presumably is whole … someone fixin' to do some fixing.  Something is going to be done to us, instead of with us.

That never feels good even if the assessment that change is needed may indeed be right.  And this is why such efforts are resisted.

Change agents too easily forget that you can't expect people to respect your ideas if those same people feel you don't respect them—not necessarily their ideas even—but them as capable, caring human beings.  This is true whether you are trying to reform schools in your community, foster more innovation in your association, or affect public policy in government. 

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Similarly, Dale Carnegie makes a similar point in How to Win Friends and Influence People.   Try not to tell someone they are wrong, especially in public.  (Even if it is true!)  They'll get defensive and dig in their heels.  Rather, ask them if they have considered this issue or that issue, and then give them enough room to change course and come to your way of thinking.

Communication styles that boil down to "I'm right, and you're wrong," may be wonderful in the debate club, but they often do more harm than good in a meeting.