- A consultant to a finance executive we'll call Tim, from a large global tech service firm, who's client opened a routine contract renewal meeting, with this stunner: "Do you think we should be paying 10,000 dollars per service phone call?" Their math was correct, that year the client paid two and a half million dollars for unlimited service phone calls, but only used 250 of them. The client usually accepted a small increase for inflation, because they were happy with the service. Not this time. Caught off guard, Tim said, "we'll get back to you", thinking the client would give them time to update their proposal.
Not so. This abrupt meeting happened on a Friday. On Monday, the client sent out a request for a proposal inviting the tech firm's toughest competitors to take their business. Tim's easy meeting had become a nightmare. He was in big trouble, his reputation was on the line. But, as Tim tells the story, we could have avoided it all by thinking of their perspective. We thought everything was fine because we heard nothing to the contrary. We thought about them, but we didn't think like them. How can you avoid Tim's mistake and incorporate your listeners perspective into your own actions? Well, sometimes you can ask them directly.
This is what Tim realized, he said, "Before the meeting, just ask them, "what would you like from us? "What are your expectations? "What's the best use of your time when we meet?" "Even better," he said, "ask check-in questions "long before the meeting. "How are you doing? "How are we doing? "How can we improve?" Remember, what matters to them, is what matters to them. The best way to bridge the intent-impact gap, is to go to the other side. Clarify expectations proactively. Ask them, show you're interested in their perspective.
This way, you gain crucial insight, and you send a clear signal that what matters to them, matters to you. But sometimes, it's uncomfortable, politically inappropriate, or unfeasible as a practical matter to ask your listeners directly for their input before you meet. What then? In some cases you can ask others who know your listeners well for their suggestions. If that won't work, all is still not lost, because you can always do this: Go back to the "Think, Feel, Do" questions, but answer them from their point of view. Think questions: "What do they want to learn, be informed about or understand?" Feel questions: "What's their attitude about this topic, situation, project, your performance, et cetera?" Do questions: "What actions do they want to be taken, by whom, and when?" It's a great thought experiment.
Go all the way to their side, pretend you're actually them, and answer the questions as if you're being interviewed. Get creative, get some help, brainstorm with trusted colleagues. Here's another tool to go to their side. Let's call it "Gain and Pain". It's clarifying what your listeners want to gain, that is, achieve, or move toward, along with their pain, or what they want to avoid, or move away from. Brainstorm ideas about what your listeners want to gain. What are their goals, short term and long term? Hopes and aspirations? "Best case" scenarios for their priorities? Future opportunities? Here's some pain questions: What are their problems, risks, stresses, and concerns? What "keeps them awake"? "Worst case" scenarios for their priorities? Future failures that they fear? This is what Tim ended up doing.
He essentially went through the "Gain and Pain" questions, and discovered a creative win-win to keep the client. He reduced their fee by seven percent, reasonable, given their workload dropped a lot, and they secured a new four-year commitment, to avoid going through that scare-cycle annually. So, always remember to answer your listener's "Think, Feel, Do" questions, and their "Gain and Pain" questions from their point of view. You'll add to the gain, and avoid a lot of pain, both for them, and for you.
- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
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