It’s a handbook of sorts, a reference book, filled with clever phrases and questions all designed to help you in conflict situations.
After reading it, I decided to put it to use immediately. I read a few of the phrases before attending most of my meetings. What I found was that I was asking better questions and was a more focused listener.
I recently asked Barbara more about her work.
“Knowing when to fight is just as important as how.” –Terry Goodkind
Practice, practice, practice! Many of us are uncomfortable with conflict to the point where we not just shy away from it—we run from it and give in rather than dealing with it. It takes courage and practice to have conflict muscle, but we also want people to know that not all conflict is “bad.” Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships.
Talk about the power of listening.
Most of us think we’re really good listeners, but what we really do is, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when they stop speaking. That’s not listening. Listening is putting your own thoughts aside to focus on the words being said but also observing body language and facial expressions to really get what the person is saying. Our ever-increasing virtual world makes listening even more difficult, so whenever possible, have difficult conversations face to face. But if you can’t be in the same place, use Facetime or Skype so least you can see each other. A good listener uses techniques like paraphrasing back what they heard to ensure both people are on the same wave length. Listening takes practice—just like any other communication form. We spend a lot time learning how to speak to be understood or how to write well but not much time learning how to listen.
“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.” –Thomas Edison
Years ago, I was walking down a long office corridor in a nondescript office building. Visiting one of the largest companies in the area, I was being escorted to a conference room. What the purpose of that visit was, I really can’t remember.
But I do remember walking by one room. As I was passing by, I glanced in and saw a man at the front of a room filled with maybe twenty or so people. That would not be in my memory bank except for what I next heard.
“I’m sorry, I screwed that up and let you all down.”
That’s not something you often hear from the front of the room.
I froze, right in the doorway, wondering what he was apologizing for and what was going on. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had no business stopping to watch, so I willed my feet to keep walking.
In those few seconds, I don’t know the details of what happened. But I could discern that this was the boss, and he wasn’t holding back. He had made a mistake and was taking full responsibility for it.
It was impressive. I wonder what the others in that room thought. My guess is that they still talk about this boss of theirs.
“Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose your words well.” -Robin Sharma
As I said above, this one is powerful because it’s unexpected, and it demonstrates both self-awareness and personal responsibility. That’s not a boss who looks to throw the blame faster than a quarterback about to be sacked.
“Leaders who apologize demonstrate personal accountability.” -Skip Prichard
I’m a student of good communication and have been all my life. And Jack’s observations and practical book upped my game immediately from Chapter 1. I’m sure you will enjoy learning to recognize these sentences and strategies and how to handle them as they arise.
Jack Quarles is the founder of Buying Excellence, a company helping businesses choose the best vendor possible. He is a specialist on expense management, negotiations, and increasing ROI.
How to Spot the Expensive Sentence
Give us an example of an “expensive sentence.”
Skip, here are a few I’ve heard in the last week:
“I’m too busy to look at that now.”
“She’s the only one who can do the job.”
“It’s too late to change our plans.”
They surround us. Sometimes they take the form of proverbs, like, “You can’t change horses in mid-stream,” or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Others can be very localized, like, “Our boss isn’t interested in new marketing tactics,” or “That’s just Ted being Ted.”
“The best time to manage the damage of an Expensive Sentence is right after you hear it.” –Jack Quarles
How are expensive sentences related to poor communication?
Unfortunately, Expensive Sentences have the effect of ending conversations and stopping communication. For example, imagine that you and I are discussing which consultant to hire for a project, and I say, “Well, you get what you pay for.” That phrase has weight; it sounds wise and definitive. You will probably think I am quite set in that position (of hiring the higher-priced consultant), even though I may only be 60% sure that it applies here. I’d be better off qualifying my words before they define our decision, and you might be smart to gently respond, “Yes, it’s often true that you do have to pay for higher quality… but is that true in this case? Or could that be an Expensive Sentence?”
Myths that Drive Decision-Making
Jack, you debunk many common myths that drive corporate decision-making. And then you give suggestions on how to handle them. I’d love to delve into a few, starting with, “The customer is always right.” You give examples of where customers are mistaken. Would you share one and the implications?
In the book, I share about a meeting I took part in with the CEO of Five Guys, Jerry Murrell. They’ve grown with a franchise model, and so they have customers who run restaurants (franchisees) and customers who eat burgers (“French fries-ees” – sorry, couldn’t resist!) Lots of people associate burgers with milkshakes, and a common request/complaint is that Five Guys should sell milkshakes. Other customers would love to see turkey sandwiches or coffee on the menu.
Murrell sees these potential expansions as diversions; he has always been laser-focused on burgers & fries. The chain prides itself on being the best reviewed restaurant in the world, in part because they serve such limited fare. If they were to start offering other items, they’d be graded on the average of their full menu, and Five Guys is not confident they can make what would universally be considered the best milkshake or turkey sandwich or cup of coffee in the world. (Burgers & fries? Done.)
There are only two reasons that our customers are “wrong” with their requests: either they add too much cost for us to serve them sustainably (i.e., profitably), or they lead us in the wrong direction, away from our core business. We must be clear and confident about our business model to avoid letting customers steer us in the wrong direction. This can be tricky because sometimes we need to experiment, and business models can evolve. But over-responsiveness is a proven path to exhaustion and losses.
Five Guys is an extreme example of focus (even within the restaurant industry), but note their success. Clearly, it’s not “wrong” in the abstract to want a turkey sandwich or a milkshake with your burger; the point is that’s not the kind of experience that Five Guys is offering.
How wide-ranging is your “menu”? Where does your business draw the line? What are the wrong kind of customers? Do you currently have a client who might be better served by one of your competitors? These are great questions to discuss with your team.
“The cost of Expensive Sentences transcends the income statement; it affects lives all around us.” –Jack Quarles
This is a guest post by Zoe Anderson. Zoe is part of the team behind StudySelect. She’s interested in finding new motivation tools and branding strategies. After one of my recent posts on words, this submission grabbed my attention.
The Power of Words
Words have power. Just ask any successful leader. Whether in business, politics, or life, the right words can open the doors of opportunity, while the wrong words can get that same door slammed in your face.
With this list of phrases that you will never hear a successful leader use, you can benefit from the wisdom of others and avoid having the doors of opportunity and success closed to you.
“That’s not my fault.”
Good leaders always take responsibility and would never dream of throwing their subordinates under the bus by trying to shift blame. If you always take responsibility, you will gain the trust and loyalty of your team.
“I’m the boss.”
If you have to keep reminding your team who is in charge, then you are showing your weakness as a leader. Confidence, rather than arrogance is the attitude you should be aiming for. People naturally follow confidence, while arrogance invites contempt.
“I’ll do it myself.”
This shows a lack of confidence in your team and sends the message that no one else is as good as you are. If you find that your team isn’t performing up to standard, it’s your job to guide them through and get them the help they need. The first attempts at doing something will rarely yield stellar results. You may need to give people a little space to fail at first so you can give them the feedback they need to improve.