You’ve heard it before…
You’re in a meeting and someone is presenting an idea or proposal that they’ve placed an enormous amount of time and effort into. This is their BABY. It’s obvious they’ve done some research, talked to some experts and influencers. They got the data, did the analysis and did all the right things. There are some gaps, maybe…..perhaps a blind sport or two. Then it happens:
“What about XXX!?” (XXX = name of gap or blind spot goes here)
“That’s just obvious!” “How could you miss that?!” “Well, that’s no good…” “You’ll have to do better than that to convince me!” “We just need smarter people on this, apparently!” [Yes, I’ve heard that in meetings…]
“Don’t take it personally….it’s just business.”
I’m sorry, no. It’s never just business.
These are people you’re talking to…fellow human beings and partners in the journey of life. Having done so much to achieve something spectacular only to be “ripped a new one”….yeah, they’ll be motivated to stick their necks out again for the company real soon.
The same can be said of professional relationships, whether across businesses, between managers and direct reports, or among peers. You may be inhabiting a business or working within a professional framework in some way, but it is never just business. Our culture sets us up to identify our very being (rightly or wrongly…) and internal value with what we do. Attacking that is a often perceived as a personal attack, and I know of no one who reacts rationally to a personal attack….so, if that’s true, how can any reaction to an attack in a business or professional context be rational?
What if the approach in the first case was something like this:
“Wow, Sarah, it’s obvious you and your team have put an enormous amount of work and thought into this. I really appreciate your research into the numbers in that third area on slide 5. However, I note that you’re missing some data from a critical customer channel. Have you thought how that might impact your numbers in Q4? Is there anyplace you can get more channel data to help you fine tune this proposal? I think maybe Lakshmi’s team might have a line on that, if you check with them.”
…and so on. See? How about being civil? How about considering what it would look like to work together toward this common goal being proposed? It must be of value, or it probably wouldn’t have occurred to the smart people you have in the company to research it and work this hard to show it as an opportunity to be pursued, so why try to stomp it out in order to be the loudest one in the room or some other ego-based reason?
At any rate, treating others as you wish to be treated in a similar scenario (sound familiar?) is bound to drive better value and greater collaboration across the company and through other professional relationships. We need each other. Disrupting relationships between teams and individuals does nothing positive, and the economic landscape is such that we cannot afford to blow up instead of work together.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.