By Dan Curry
We’ve all been there. That meeting where nobody seems to understand each other and yet everyone seems to value their input more than anyone else in the room. That meeting where each proposed solution seems to bring more problems and questions than actual solutions. That meeting where…well… we’ve all been there.
So how do we go about getting from “there” to the place that we want to be? The place where we have a solution that not only works, but truly addresses the underlying causes of the issues? I recommend taking a page from Judo.
First, understand that everything has its opposite. Every action has a reaction. Every technique has two parts: the Uke (person receiving the technique) and the Tori (person giving the technique). Each story has two perspectives and everybody involved brings their own experiences into the equation for any situation. This is the reason why martial artists bow before they begin drilling techniques or sparring. The bow signifies an opening of the mind, mutual good will, and respect.
Applying this technique in business is critical in any meeting where conflict commonly arises. Go to the meeting not expecting confrontation, but welcoming the opportunity to hear and understand another person’s perspectives.
The second lesson is how to take a partner’s (notice that they are your partner, not your opponent or adversary) balance. This can be done in one of three primary motions: push, pull, or walk away.
When your partner is pushing, it is counterproductive to push back. When you do it creates friction and becomes a contest of strength that leaves you both tired and sore. The same applies when your partner is pulling (think of the old game “tug-o-war”). When a partner begins to push, pull. When they pull, allow yourself to push a little.
For example, if you have a partner that is extremely assertive they know the best way to solve the issue, instead of arguing with them, hear them out. As they begin to push their idea, ask them to further explain key areas. Use a whiteboard and let them sketch out their ideas. If it is a large group (this is especially helpful in UX/UI projects), bring some UI components as cut-out pieces of paper and allow them to place it on a canvas that represents the screen so that everyone can see their idea. They may find after a short while that what they had thought was the best solution does not actually solve the underlying issue, or you may have a complete understanding of what they are trying to communicate if it does. In the end, it does not matter who yields, so long as the outcome is a true understanding of one another and what needs to be done to improve the required outcome.
Another type of partner likes to keep things in the current state and are resistant to change (the pull). Instead of trying to pull them over to your ideas, consider moving first into the direction that they are pulling toward. Does their idea work? Explore it. Take the time to listen to their experience and expertise, and then offer to show them how your solution also accomplishes what they are trying to do but in a much more efficient manner. Don’t be afraid to admit when you are wrong or outdone. Just because a solution is not what you recommended, don’t be afraid to implement it. The result should always be what is best for the whole organization.
Finally, there is the belligerent. This is the partner that is overly aggressive, but lacks sufficient skill or insight to be truly effective. They are used to getting their way by brute force and pure momentum. With this type of user, the best approach is simply to move out of their way. If they are successful in what they are trying to accomplish, be sure to congratulate them. However, I have seen many individuals that have this style simply end up staring up at the ceiling without knowing how they ended up there. In the meetings where this type of user tries to drive the requirements, move aside. Let them try what they think they need to. Caution them against it if necessary, and make sure that you document it in an email or call recording, but implement their requirement nonetheless. Usually, once they have fallen a couple of times due to a lack of resistance, they will begin to see the success of the other projects where participants are pushing and pulling together in harmony.
So, the next time that you are on your way to a meeting, remember to let go. Let go of preconceived notions and past experiences. Let go of pride and agendas, and keep the fact that the benefit of the team is more important than a personal “victory.”
Dan Curry serves as a Senior Solutions Engineer with over 11 years’ experience as both an Admin and Developer specializing in process automation, data-driven application design, and team dynamics. He holds four Salesforce.com certifications as well as a brown belt in Gadi Kempojitsu and is Krav Maga level three certified.