Every day, dismissive objections to new ideas or solutions to old problems dampen morale and hurt productivity. Because they are lightweight objections, they often don’t seem important. But they can thwart the journey to the next big idea.
The next time you have an idea politely waved off because “There isn’t any time” or “We have bigger problems,” don’t back down. Deploy the 3-G strategy to put lightweight objections in their place. Using facts and statistics:
• State the “givens” of a situation.
• Define the “gap” between current and ideal reality.
• Establish a “goal.”
The following exchange exemplifies a lightweight objection.
Manager: “We recently have made some small errors that could have become very costly. It is time to review our process, refine it and document it.”
Supervisor: “The fact that we caught the errors before they became big problems means we have a great process. We don’t need to reinvent the process just because of minor errors.”
Summary: The supervisor suspects the manager is overreacting, but the manager has concerns. It’s time to use the 3-G strategy to overcome the supervisor’s objectives.
Close-up on 3-G
Given strategy. The manager says, “The minor mishaps we had recently don’t seem like much. However, I’ve looked at four past development cycles and noticed a pattern of errors. Alone, they weren’t big enough to cause alarm. But taken together, there are clearly times when problems tend to arise.”
Supervisor: “Yes, but oversights are always caught later on and no one is wiser.”
Manager: “Those oversights meant someone had to scramble at the end of the cycle—putting stress on our employees. And imagine if those oversights never were caught. I prepared a worst-case scenario to show how much time we would have lost and what those delays would have cost.”
Supervisor: “That’s a lot of money. Are these projections sound?”
Manager: “Yes. A few, low-cost tweaks in the process would protect us from that worst-case scenario much better than the process we have now.”
Gap strategy. Manager: “I have done some research and discovered that the majority of errors occur in the middle of the process. We spent a lot of time planning the beginning of the development cycle and the end. The middle part involves the most people and the most potential for miscommunication because no one knows exactly what each person’s role is besides their own. If we clarify steps and roles, and document them, we will have fewer opportunities for errors.”
Supervisor: “That will also increase accountability and allow us to locate bottlenecks.”
Manager: “Good point.”
Goal strategy. Manager: “The goal is to clarify the process and to improve transparency and communication. The goal is not to assign blame. I want employees to feel involved in defining the process and their roles.”
Supervisor: “What’s your plan?”
Manager: “I would like to set up a meeting where we review the current process and ask employees to fill in the missing steps. Then, we can ask for ideas on how to improve the process.”
Supervisor: “Be prepared for the question of why we need to improve a process that seems to be working fine.”
Manager: “I have the statistics on our previous errors. I also have researched process improvement techniques to use at the meeting. I will take responsibility for the final process, but everyone will have an opportunity to be heard and to contribute.”
Supervisor: “Good work. Set it up.”
• Do your homework. If you intend to convince others, you have to be convinced and convincing. There’s nothing like numbers to bolster your confidence and lend weight to your arguments.
• Remain objective. Because you have done so much thinking about and preparing for your argument, it’s easy to become defensive if anyone challenges you. But taking issue with every criticism will not win over anyone. Listen thoughtfully, and give credit to insights that build on yours.
• Learn from others. Observe people who are influencers. Learn from their style, tools and tactics, and incorporate what works.
• Be brief. The people you want to influence are often the busiest. They don’t have time to listen to long explanations or read copious data. Do the research and fully prepare, but articulate the givens, gaps and goal quickly.
• Review your results. Track the times you overcome objections and the times you don’t. Log effective -- and ineffective -- words, arguments and strategies. Not every obstacle can be overcome, but, with attention to detail, objections certainly can be.
Marlene Caroselli is founder of the Center for Professional Development, a training firm in Rochester, N.Y. She is a speaker and author of more than 60 books, including The Critical Thinking Tool Kit (AMACOM, 2011). She can be reached at cpdlearning.com.
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