Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Changing the conversation

DSC08511The call was about the future.  There was now a clear, risk=-free path to getting our product into the market, and the discussion turned to what to do next.  What is the best way to drive commercial growth, product line expansions, clinical adoption, and rising revenues in the first year after introduction?   Would an independent trial or an independent channel yield greater returns: would demonstration of clinical effectiveness suffice, or was economic evidence the key?

We’d had a good walk-through of the issues, weighing evidence, stories of other companies, and enumerating alternatives.

Good, I closed, well, is there anything else?

“You don’t get off that easily.  You’re a great one for letting a conversation go without a conclusion.  Now I’m going to hold you to giving one.”

I was a bit taken aback (not the least because it’s very un-British to be so frank).  Does every business DSC08512conversation need an agenda, minutes, summary and action points? It reminds me of similar maxims: ‘No action actually happened unless it is documented’ and ‘The right things won’t happen consistently unless there is a procedure and training’, or ‘signatures are only valid when made with a black pen’’.

The truth is, I need to think about a wide-ranging conversation before I am ready to summarize and decide.  I might want to bounce some points off of other people (in fact, I did) or do some reading.  I need a block of quiet time, wind whistling over the car,  without thinking about it, for my intuitive side to agree with my rational one.

I did summarize and give a bias towards an answer, but left the conversation open-ended.

DSC08575I’ve been getting a number of suggestions about how to conduct better conversations recently.  A favorite was the notion that the order of events in emails should be inverted.

I tend to order correspondence as Hi, ‘hope that things are going well and that your weekend was fun.   I have been going through the proposal and wondered if I could ask a favor before the next meeting….

Simon Sinek holds that this tends to make people cynical about my good wishes if they lead to asking for something.  ‘better to say Hi,  I have been going through the proposal and wondered if I could ask a favor before the next meeting…. ‘hope that things are going well and that your weekend was fun.  best, Dave

I’ve been reversing the order and think that it strengthens my correspondence, a good tip.  (and never, ever say ‘best wishes’ in closing a letter in the UK: its often a backhand way of saying that you don’t wish them well at all).

DSC08545Another criticized me for holding up decisions until I understand the issue being decided.  Good people, the sort that I bring on board, do understand the facts and know what needs to be done.  They get frustrated if they feel like I’m not respecting and trusting them. 

I get that, it’s not a control and authority ploy. Rather, I feel like I need to understand the actions that I am responsible and accountable for.

So, we have agreed that I will delegate without interfering, but on the agreement that the solution will be patiently explained to me after it is implemented.

DSC08515Another, finally, says that I am too averse to confrontation, and that this keeps me from dealing effectively with problem people.

That is, indeed, a character flaw.  I am much more likely to avoid an argument and withdraw from passionate advocacy to let tempers cool and facts to become known.

So, I’m drawing bright lines, deadlines and actions with consequences for underperformers that I can feel just about enforcing.  And I am leaning into some arguments, trying to engage better and let a bi of passion show about issues that I care about.

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