Part of our Performance Drumbeat at Optimum Consulting Group is a monthly all-staff meeting to share information and progress, held in the last week of the month.  We often have people joining from 8 or more separate locations which means it is very much an online meeting.  It often reminds us of the introduction to the Brady Bunch television show (for those who remember it).

During the last meeting we were sharing information as a group about what is important to our customers and I had an opportunity to chime in with a story that I thought I would share with our Optimum community.

Help or interference?

Say you and I were working together and one day around the water cooler you mentioned to me that you felt really disorganised and ‘really wished someone could just clean up my email inbox and document files’.  Let’s also say that I cared about you and didn’t like seeing you under pressure.  Later that day I noticed that you had left the office and also that you hadn’t locked your computer.   It suddenly occurred to me that I had an opportunity to solve your problem, and so I diligently went about organising your email inbox, re-arranging your documents in an orderly fashion and deleting any documents that appeared to be clogging up the system.   I hadn’t asked you, but I knew you would think I was helping you out.

In this scenario, would you feel that this was a) Help, or b) Interference, or c) An invasion of your space?

It’s whatever the other person thinks it is!talking

Whether you thought it was help or not, in this scenario I wouldn’t have really known.  I was making a guess, and therefore probably doing it so that I could feel better about myself.  After all, I was being helpful, right?

Whether I thought it was helpful is a little beside the point – it is whatever you think it is.  And given that I didn’t ask, then I was tossing the coin and probably hoping for the best.  In the world of business, how often does this situation play out?

Best you know what they want!

So lets get back to the original question – why would someone care about what you have to say?  One of the simplest reasons is that what you are saying is important or relevant or meaningful to the other person.  One of my favourite phrases at the moment is this – you can’t expect someone to properly understand your world if you haven’t at least tried to understand theirs.  In other words, focus less on what you think someone else wants, and more on what they actually want.  Focus on what is important to them, and they will likely reciprocate.

How?  There is a wonderful strategy available to every single one of us that works pretty much every single time.

Politely ask, and then genuinely listen to the answer.  It really is that simple.

Jason Buchanan – General Manager

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