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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Feb 21, 2024

 As leaders, we are busy bees.  We are buzzing around, going from meeting to meeting. We are getting together with clients over lunch, touching base with HQ, handling the media, talking to HR about our people and a host of other important activities. Usually poor time managers, we are constantly hemmed in by the demands on our schedules.  The upshot is we are constantly looking for corners to cut, minutes to be shaved off regular activities and feeling oppressed by the overwhelming workload we face. The common victim in all of this is our leader's communication with our team.  We have found we can save time if we get straight to the point and then we can move on.  We are packaging up orders to be given to get the team moving.  Orders are given and we move on to the next activity.

 We commonly forget to talk about the big picture, the background, the context, the WHY of what we want done.  We give the staff the short headline version of what we want done. We expect them to fill in the detail themselves, as we sleekly glide off to our next meeting, leaving them flummoxed in our wake. We are saving time, but in reality, we are slowing everything down.  If the staff don’t understand what we want, they will do a version of it.  Later, we find out that is not what we expected. We immediately get cranky because we have lost time and now we have to unwind what they have done and replace it with the correct version.  This is doubling the workload, including our own. 

 Recently, I introduced a new project which had elements required from a previous project.  I had told the team members what I wanted and a couple of years sail by.  When I wanted some elements from the previous project, I found out that they had not done what I wanted.  I thought I was clear about it, expected they understood my needs, but I made a fatal error – I didn’t check.  I was busy. I had already moved on to the next thing. Ouch!

 On reflection, I saw I had just issued an order which was crystal clear to me, but that was all I did.  I didn’t spend enough time with them at the outset to explain the WHY behind what I wanted.  I didn’t make time to communicate the context to them.  Even if my explanation wasn’t genius, if they have the context, the chances are high they would do what I wanted automatically, because they got it.  None of that happened.

I should have made remembering and understanding what I wanted clearer by wrapping it up in a story.  We are only so so at recalling facts, data and numbers, but we are really excellent at recalling stories.  Did I do that?  No.  I just blurted out the order in double time and promptly departed.  Don’t you know I am a busy boss?

 Did my story have to be a substantial precis of War and Peace?  No. I could have spent two minutes telling them the Why, wrapping it up in the context, told as a compelling story.  I could have aligned the reasoning for the project with the background.  I could have mentioned the necessity for this project, how it came up, who was involved, where I was when I first got involved, who I was with, etc.  All of this little detail is important because our objective is to mentally transport the listener to where we were at the time.  If we can get them to come with us in their imagination, then we will be very successful in also getting them to support the WHY. 

 When we have the same context and background, we usually come to the same conclusions.  In fact, before we have even gotten to the part in the story about what needs to happen next, they have already raced ahead and worked it out for themselves.  There is no convincing needed by us, because they have concluded the appropriate course of action – surprise, surprise - the same one we are recommending. 

They may come to a different conclusion after all, but that is fine.  They may actually come up with an idea which is better than ours.  The chances of their idea being radically different from ours, given the same context, would be possible, but rare.

When we next feel the urgent need to lurch forward with an order, let’s exercise some self-restraint.  Instead, we should hark back to the roots of this project or task and recall why we came to the conclusion it was important.  Instead of telling them what to do, we just re-run the story of how we came to see this as the way forward and share that context with them.  At the end of that exercise we will find they will be very receptive to our suggestion, not order, on what should happen next. 

This is a type of verbal jiujitsu.  We draw them in the direction we want, by getting their momentum to go where we want it.  It is a much superior method to barking out orders like a mad pirate captain – our usual leader reprise.  If we can help them to self-discover the conclusion, then we have been a very successful communicator. We will see ownership and commitment on their part.  This is so much smarter than the usual brute force of issuing orders backed up by the stripes on our sleeve pulling rank.