Earning The Right
To Be Heard
Phillip Van Hooser, CSP
This is a
question that I hear repeated over and over as I speak to and work with
a variety of organizations around this country. Employees ask that of
their supervisors. Supervisors ask that of their managers. Managers ask
that of their general managers. "Well, what is the answer?" you might
ask. I have spent a considerable amount of time developing an answer to
that question. In this day and age, as we encourage employees in all
areas of the organization to become involved in managing their own jobs
and the decisions that are required, we must be sure to share with them
the realities of the situation.
REALITY NUMBER 1: Supervisors,
managers, and business leaders, no matter how well intentioned they may
be, simply don't have time to listen to every problem, situation,
complaint and desire of every employee. There is simply too much to be
done. Frivolous conversations, without any noticeable benefit, simply
add to the already overwhelming burden that many decision makers are
asked to bear.
REALITY NUMBER 2: If something
has become important enough for you to call special attention to "it,"
an emotional bond has already been created with "it." On the surface,
there is nothing wrong with emotional commitment. From it grows passion.
However, we must always be aware of Reality Number 3.
REALITY NUMBER 3: People who are
responsible for managing things have always been taught to make
decisions based, not on emotion, but on logic. In other words, decision
makers will think or say, "Don't tell me how you feel, tell me what this
idea of yours can do for us." Their response based on their position and
the responsibilities associated with it, is both predictable and
Phillip Van Hooser
|With these three realities clearly in mind, I suggest
to my audiences that if one truly wishes to be heard, then he or she
must first earn that right. To earn that right, I believe there are four
questions that any decision maker must have the answers to, before they
can act in good conscience. If we know what these questions are, it then
simply becomes our responsibility to prepare the answers -- in advance.
Here we go.
QUESTION NUMBER 1: "HOW MUCH IS IT GOING TO
Managers learn this question in the first week of "supervisors school."
There are three definitely wrong answers . . . "I don't know" . . . "Not
much" . . . "It doesn't matter; we need it." Each of these answers may be
offered with much emotion, but the missing logic is immediately apparent.
The correct and appropriate answer needs to be specific. One must be
prepared with actual numbers including investment cost, implementation
costs, training, etc. If this answer is supported by written documentation,
in the eyes of the decision maker, you are inching further away from emotion
and closer to logic, thereby making your thoughts/concerns more valuable.
QUESTION NUMBER 2: "WHAT IS THE BENEFIT?"
You must nail this one. The successful answer will include a complete
listing of all the benefits that can be derived as a result of your
suggested action. If 85 benefits can be identified, then come prepared with
a list of 85. One cautionary note, all 85 of those benefits must be
legitimate and defensible. If the decision maker determines any of your
listed benefits to be less than legitimate, then the entire list is
considered to be in question. If the benefit list is made up of only one,
make sure that its foundation is unshakable and secure.
QUESTION NUMBER 3: "HOW LONG WITH IT TAKE?"
We have all heard the old saying, "Time is money." Well, decision makers
have it tattooed on their chests. All of us can think of opportunities that
were intentionally bypassed, not because the appropriate resources were not
available, but rather because there was no clear picture of how long this
activity might take to implement. I strongly suggest that to earn the right
to be heard, we must take the time to develop answers to such difficult
questions. We simply can`t assume that those things will work themselves
out, or that we can cross that bridge when we get to it. Proactive
communication professionals anticipate such timing concerns as shipping
dates, training periods, outages, in-house delays, etc., in advance, and
communicate them openly.
QUESTION NUMBER 4: "WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF
NOT ACTING NOW?"
Many individuals feel that if they have successfully maneuvered their way
through the first three questions posed by suspicious decision makers, that
they must be home free. Not quite. Many decision makers have a deeply
ingrained tendency to just "wait and see" what happens. Indecision proves to
be a tremendous idea killer. My suggested answer to this particular question
requires a certain amount of gutsiness on the part of the responder.
When asked, "What are the consequences of not acting now?" I suggest the
following response, "Well, boss, if you decide to not act on my
recommendation, you can certainly count on my continued support and
participation. However, remember that there are a certain number of benefits
(those previously identified) that will not be realized as a result of your
decision today." Put the full responsibility for both the decision and
resulting impact of it squarely on his or her shoulders. As risky as this
may seem, it can be very effective.
One final communication tip: Remember, it`s not what you say, it`s how
you say it. Always strive to conclude every discussion and interaction on a
strong, supportive and positive note.
Can I assure you that communicating your professional concerns in the
manner that I have prescribed will always lead to personal satisfaction and
professional success, regardless of the level of decision makers you may
encounter? Of course not. There are simply too many unidentified
circumstances that may be outside our realm of control. However, I can
assure you of one thing. If you regularly practice these methods of
communication, your stock will rise in your organization. Why? It's simple.
You have earned the right to be heard.
|A former human resource professional in FORTUNE 500
America, Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, has lived "in the trenches" where many
of today`s employees, managers, and business leaders find themselves
struggling. With presentations built on experience, Phil addresses
leadership, change, team building, and service professionalism issues.
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