Easy and right may not be the same thing

In life and in business you may find yourself having to make a choice between doing the easy thing and doing the right thing.

Doing the easy thing is having that second biscuit, or not saying anything when a colleague steps over the line. Or it might be agreeing with the customer – when you know they’re making a poor choice.

It’s more difficult to decline the extra biscuit and get some exercise.

It’s more difficult to confront the colleague and deal with their poor behaviour.

It’s more difficult to disagree with the customer and help them make a better choice.

The difficulty with all these examples is that they require a degree of confrontation. We see confrontation as a prelude to conflict.

Most of us don’t like conflict and go out of our way to avoid it!

Taking the easy way out offers short-term gain but may well lead to long-term pain.

The colleague who steps over the line once is likely to do so again. It could be that the rest of the team see this and, almost by default, the line is moved – what was previously considered unacceptable behaviour now becomes acceptable.

The customer who makes a poor choice is going to regret it. That regret will probably lead to resentment – it’s your fault, so you get the blame.

That biscuit goes straight to your waistline and stays there!

It’s much better for you and for your business if you focus on doing the right thing, not just the easy thing.

Over time, your colleagues will respect you and your customers will value your frank opinion. You will develop a reputation for integrity and honesty.

Businesses that have that kind of reputation find it easier to sell their products or services. They always know the difference between ‘easy’ and ‘right’.


Disagree with respect

I’ve observed some worrying trends in meetings I’ve been attending lately.  It seems people are afraid to speak their minds during a meeting for fear of being seen as disrespectful. Another trend is that voicing disagreement is seen as a sign of treasonable disrespect and leads to a shouting match!

Neither of these trends is conducive to good business conduct.

Robust characters exist in every business. They’re naturally inclined to dominate the discussion, brushing disagreements aside.

Timid people who fail to get their point across can become frustrated. This probably results in them leaving the business sooner or later.

A good chairperson will encourage the timid ones and rein in more robust individuals, to ensure a balanced debate in which all points of view are heard.

If you listen to debates in the House of Commons or House of Lords,  MPs and members use arcane-sounding language such as ‘My honourable friend’.  But using such language is designed to ensure that disagreements are not taken to be disrespectful.

You’ll also hear phrases such as ‘With respect, I disagree’, but these words are often spoken in a way that contradicts their meaning!

As a business leader, it’s your job to maximise contributions and input from all members of the team – and that includes allowing them to disagree with you.

If you invite constructive criticism of yourself and your actions, you’re setting an example to everyone in the team. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism and it’s not disrespectful or insulting to disagree with what other people are saying.

An additional benefit of this approach is that your ideas and suggestions will be examined in much more detail. As the saying goes, ‘If you really want to understand something, teach it’.

Being open and inclusive in this way has a positive impact, both on team culture and the atmosphere in meetings. Encouraging criticism from team members stimulates openness. Creating an open environment means that others (including junior staff and those who are timid) feel able to volunteer their thoughts and ideas too.

Which is easier – trying to do it all on your own or getting others to contribute?

You get paid to make decisions

If you’re in a leadership role, one of the things your team expect from you and need you to do is make decisions. They want you to provide leadership. In very simple terms, what this means is that you tell them what’s happening next, and what direction they need to take.

If you don’t make decisions, this will give rise to frustration and annoyance. The team are ready and waiting to go, but until you tell them which direction to take, they can’t start!

Of course, you should take time to gather the necessary evidence before coming to a decision, but don’t fall into the ‘analysis paralysis’ trap.

Equally, don’t be rushed into making the wrong decision by impatient team members who may not understand all the complexities involved.

However, not every decision requires lengthy consideration!

If the consequences of getting a decision wrong are small, you can make quick, almost instinctive decisions. It’s when the consequences are substantial that you should take your time and gather evidence before arriving at a decision.

Think about the consequences first.

Once you’ve made your decision, the next step is to communicate it. Until you share the decision, you might as well not have made it!

When you share a decision with others, it’s often (but not always) a good idea to share the rationale behind it as well.  By doing this, your team can appreciate the factors you’ve taken into account in reaching your decision.

This has two main benefits –

First, your team can see what you’ve thought about, and understand what you’re trying to achieve.

Because of this, they may well feel able to take further action, moving the business in the right direction with less input from you.

Equally, your team may be aware of factors you have overlooked and can bring them to your attention.

The second benefit is that transparent and open decision-making builds confidence among the team members and influences their view of you as a leader who ‘knows what they’re doing’.

Who would you rather follow – a leader who makes seemingly random decisions, or one who makes decisions that are carefully thought through and clearly explained?

Do you bless your customers?

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face …

Those are the first few lines of a traditional Irish blessing and, for me, they are all about making life easier for the person receiving the blessing.

Regular readers will know that I’m a great fan of ensuring the customer’s interests lie at the heart of your business strategy. The easier you make life for the customer, the more you will be valued as a supplier, the longer the customer will stay with you, and the more opportunities you will have to win other business from that customer.

During a recent session with one business, we discovered that their customers were having to re-order consumables manually. However, this business held customer usage data, which meant they knew what their opening stock position was, so creating an automatic replenishment order wasn’t that much of a step for them. But doing this would make a significant difference to the customer – one less thing for them to worry about.

In a similar vein, another business was including a service offering with every sale. The default was that the customer bought the service with the product and had to specifically decline the service if they didn’t want it. As the IP for the product belonged to this business, there was nowhere else the customer could get it serviced or repaired.  But including a service with the sale didn’t just give the business the security of future revenues, it also eliminated a potential headache for the customer. They too had security, knowing that the service had been organised in advance.

The key to keeping your customer on side is to understand their business need. The fact that you supply them with a particular widget isn’t important. What matters more is understanding what they are going to achieve with that widget. And when you know what they are doing with it, you may be able to see how you can help them achieve their goal. Through doing this, you will almost certainly gain other benefits as well.