Why it’s not enough to be right

I know it’s the right thing to do.  So let’s do it! How often have you been certain of the right course of action, revealed your plan to your colleagues and been amazed that they didn’t immediately start doing what you suggested? It’s happened to me. More than once.

If you’re like me, you might have been a bit annoyed that they couldn’t see straight away that you were right. You might have been tempted to try and railroad them.

And if you’re like me you’ll have realised that ‘the Right Thing’ is entirely subjective. Just because you or I think this is the Right Thing, doesn’t mean that everyone will agree. Or at least, not at first.

You see, being right isn’t enough. We have to also be able to persuade other people that we’re right.

And how do you do that?

There is a presupposition of NLP that tells us that ‘people always make the best choice based on the information available’. So to enable other people to see how right your plan is, you have to give them access to the same information as you.

To put it simply, you have to manage the available information so that whoever looks at it, the best choice indicated by the facts, is the one you thought of!

You might not be totally comfortable with that. It can seem manipulative – if that’s all you do.

So here’s the beauty of this approach: if you are prepared to line up all of your information that points in the direction of your view of the Right Thing, you can also invite your colleagues to add to that information. They can contribute what they know, what they believe and what they think.

Then, you make a collective decision based on ALL the data, not just one person’s. This way, you avoid arguments, you’re not manipulating anyone and the decisions made are the result of real collaboration.

Provided you’re willing to adjust your point of view, this is a great way to persuade people to a joint decision.

What makes a great question?

Part of the art of being a great listener is also being able to ask great questions. After all, it’s easier to listen attentively if the speaker is telling you what you want to know!

I could put questions in 3 categories:

1. The information question
2. The opinion question
3. The coaching question

The information question is one that simply asks for facts. For example, ‘Where do you work?’ ‘Who is your boss?’ or ‘Where are you eating dinner tonight?’ This kind of thing may seem trivial, but it’s important to recognise that if you just want facts, you have to ask a straightforward question. It’s no good asking you if you like working with your boss if really I just want to know his or her name. The information question requests someone to retrieve information from memory, nothing more.

The opinion question is one that might take a bit of thought before it can be answered. I might ask, ‘What do you think is the best way to run a team meeting?’ or, ‘How much of your available budget are you prepared to invest in your team’s development?’ or, ‘Who is the most likely person to take over your role when you move on?’

An opinion question invites the other person to consider a range of information and conjecture about the big picture. Their answer is based in fact, but relies on their own subjective judgement as well.  Most people will want to think a little before answering this type of question.

The coaching question is one that has an impact on the other person’s perception of a situation. Simply by asking the question, we open up new possibilities. An example of this might be, ‘What are you assuming is not possible, that might in fact be the answer?’ or, ‘How would you know if that was not true?’ or, ‘I know you can’t do that, but if you could do it, how long would it take?’

These are not just verbal gymnastics. This kind of question will actually change the other person’s perception. Sometimes it might make a huge difference, sometimes it will just be a subtle shift in mindset. Questions like these invite the other person to consider ideas that have not, until that moment, been a part of their thinking. 

For that reason, a coaching question might require quite a lot of thought before an answer is possible.

The best questions can be identified very easily. The best questions lead to silence…

[Video] Business Partnering

Business partnering is a phrase you'll hear spoken about in lots of different organisations and, as far as I'm aware, it started out mostly with Human Resources. Recently what we've started to see is that the idea of business partnering has moved beyond HR and has now been extended into all of the so-called support services in organisations. Departments like Finance, IT, Purchasing and so on might also find that they can benefit from a business partnering approach. So let's just think about what this really means…