Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Toolbox

In business everyone has techniques and skills they use to accomplish what is expected of them. The situation you are in will determine the technique you choose from your internal toolbox of skills.

In my professional career my role has consistently been in a leadership capacity. As a result, I have been in many situations where I have had to defend my business reasoning against opposing views. I would often express myself with firmness and confidence. In fact, I would often become aggressive and raise my voice to make my point. Several years ago I was in a strategic meeting with a few co-workers of mine including my boss and a Senior Director who had flown in from the corporate office. The nature of the meeting was to present my analysis of an account I was managing, point out the challenges at that time and provide my recommendation. At the conclusion of my presentation the Senior Director dismissed my summary and began to intimate the challenges at hand were a result of my mishandling of the account and that he was in town to "fix it". This was not accurate and so I interrupted to set the record straight. I was very stern, raised my voice to show I was taking command of the situation and laid into him holding nothing back. At the conclusion of my point, the Senior Director had to excuse himself from the meeting.

About three months later I was in a different situation and was challenged by a manager on a decision I had made. In defending my decision, I used a technique similar to that of my face-off with the Senior Director. My boss called me and said he had heard how I had reacted and wanted to talk about it. He said to me, "To a man who's good with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." He continued to share with me that I was very good with my hammer but needed more tools in my toolbox. This statement made me realize I needed to focus on developing my communication skills.

Although I believe there is a time and place for using a "hammer", having a diverse toolbox makes you a stronger leader. Some additional tools I have focused on developing are:
1) Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
2) When I sense I am becoming defensive - take a short break.
3) Ask lots of questions - you will uncover important information and learn what motivates others.
4) Pay attention to how other people communicate.

No comments: