It’s THEIR fault
post # 206 — October 4, 2006 — a Client Relations post
Something happens to me whenever I give speeches. At some point, when I am doing what I was hired to do and explaining how the people in my audience could perform their roles better, someone always sticks their hand up and says: â€œItâ€™s not us, itâ€™s them!â€
I have hundreds of these examples, but a few will make the point. They can be very dramatic.
Once, I was (as instructed) explaining to a group of middle-level people what professionalism meant, and how they might handle themselves in dealing with clients and with others. We were using the anonymous voting machines that I like to use.
â€œThe question Iâ€™d like to pose to the groupâ€ one person said, â€œis how many people here think that those who are senior to us role model these behaviors?â€
I was young and dumb enough to let the vote proceed. Barely 15% of the audience thought that those ahead of them in the organization â€œlived the values.â€
To prove how REALLY young and dumb I was, I thought I would be praised and congratulated with gratitude for having uncovered a barrier to improvement. Instead, I was accused of agitating the troops against the interests of the people who hired me. I never got hired by them again.
Although I did make the mistake again — many times. (Iâ€™m a slow learner)
I remember, years later, being with the senior partners of a major consulting firm, talking about investing in current client relationships (This was just after The Trusted Advisor had been published.). Again, someone interrupted to say â€œThis is all fine, but thereâ€™s no incentive for us to do that — all our incentives around new clients.â€
The top management was in the room. I waited for them to jump in and reconcile the contradiction. After all, these were the same people who had hired me and assigned my topic.
I waited. They stayed silent. I waited a little bit more.
The eyes of the audience were not on them, but on me. Everyone wanted to know what the outsider would say about the contradiction between the assigned topic and the incentive scheme.
And you know what? I said it was a contradiction. The audience agreed. Management scowled. We talked about what changes would be necessary to get everyone in the room willingly participating in the behaviors management wanted to see.
I was never re-hired. I had not stuck to the assigned topics. I even got a call from the secretary of one off the bosses to ask â€œHow do we get more of this Trusted Advisor stuff without having to have you?â€
Come to think of it, itâ€™s amazing that over the years I have managed to earn a living!
So, what are the lessons? Well, Iâ€™d love to hear some advice about how to handle these situations better. They happen ALL the time — to this day. In fact, Iâ€™m coming to believe that the very reason top management hires speakers is to talk about things that they canâ€™t get their people to do, and hope the speaker will convince the crowd for them.
So, itâ€™s gonna happen. Itâ€™s probably gonna happen to you. Someoneâ€™s going to say to you â€œIt ainâ€™t our fault, itâ€™s THEIRS — meaning management.â€ How are you going to handle it , then and there, in front of , say, 50 to 300 people?