A major part of my practice deals with coaching clients on how to communicate better to get what they want. This includes verbal communication, use of the right body language—physical vocabulary, and knowing when to say what you have to say and then guiding them on suggesting the right medium for the impact they desire (email, white paper, phone call, or a lunch meeting). In this blog I would like to present two examples of how doing this better and more strategically can significantly change the outcomes you can create for yourself:
This client was doing well within a well-positioned business unit that was a part of her much bigger company, which was not doing well. Yet, despite the BU’s success and my client’s ongoing efforts to help its growth with a solid product roadmap she was not getting the recognition she deserved. She wanted a promotion and a raise to go with it, both of which were well deserved, but she was not able to make her case for it to happen. The company line was, We are not doing that well!
So, we decided to start looking around and prepared a marketing plan for a campaign. Soon, she was interviewing, which resulted with a company engaged in a different business making her an offer. This offer provided her the right title and the salary she was seeking. However, she was not sure about the company’s business and its long-term prospects in that space. Yet another problem was a long commute required in the new job. She was so upset by the way her current employer had treated her that she was willing to ignore those concerns and accept that offer.
With the offer now in hand she was first tempted to abruptly resign out of spite and exit her job, which was otherwise providing her all the benefits of a good place to work, with just a few minutes’ commute. She was convinced that seeking a counter offer from current employer would be futile. Besides, she was determined to use spite as her main weapon to show her employer of the errant ways in which she was treated and to show her anger. I urged her to consider an alternate approach, which I normally do not recommend: parlaying the new job offer to get a better deal at your current employer.
After our meeting she decided to take a different approach. I reminded her of the uncertainty of the new job because of her apprehensions about the markets in which the new employer was a major player. I also reminded her of the wasted time in commuting to her new job, which would impact her work-life balance in a major way. Once she was able to see the downside of signing up for the new job more clearly, she agreed to a different strategy with which to approach her boss.
So, instead of firing of an angry email message of resignation to her boss as she had originally planned, she agreed to ask him to have an urgent lunch with her to get his guidance on an important matter. Curious, he quickly agreed to have that lunch, during which we scripted the following conversation with her boss: Jim, I urgently need your guidance to help me make a decision that impacts my career and my future. Yesterday, I was offered a job by a company nearby with a director title and a salary that presents a major change in my compensation. I am tempted to take this offer, but I am conflicted because by taking this job I’d be pursuing an unknown. Yet, at this stage of my career I think that this is a risk worth taking. What would you suggest that I do? After Jim got over the surprise, he composed himself and told my client to give him a day to get back to her.
The next day her boss came back with an offer that not only matched the parameters of her new job (title and all), but also with some additional sweeteners to trump what she had already been offered. After waiting for a day (for effect) she decided to take her boss’ counter offer and stay at her current job.
In another instance, a client was working for a company that had recently suffered major market setbacks because its main product’s functional performance. My client had some ideas on how to make the product better if he were given a clear mandate to pursue his strategy. But, for this to work he needed a higher title so that those in his work group would respect his initiative and even support it. So, he drafted the following email to a senior executive in his chain of command and showed it to me for my opinion:
“Our continued loss of market share and product leadership has resulted in spiraling team morale, sinking stock price, and uncertain outlook. Many employees have already left and more are leaving to join competitors. I am willing to take charge of this performance problem if you promote me to the Chief Architect role and assign me a team of five to support my initiative. Without this change I, too, may be looking at other options for myself. You have one week to decide this.”
After reading his draft I realized the unmistakable reaction his boss would have. So, we decided to redraft the memo with the following message:
“The spiraling market share of our product has raised serious concerns about our company’s outlook. I have researched the issue and have come up with a plan to bring the product’s performance to where it belongs. I’d be happy to present that plan to you. What I am asking through this memo is an authorization to execute this plan after you review it, and which will require a team of five for me to lead. I do not much care about what title I’ll carry during the execution of this initiative, but I am confident that given a clear mandate and the needed resources I’ll be able to bring the product’s performance to where we can start the recovery process. Please let me know when we can meet to discuss this further.”
When the uber boss saw this memo he promptly responded by saying, Let’s meet now! The same day my client got the title he was originally seeking with the team he requested and a clear mandate to prosecute the initiative.
So, what is the lesson here? Strategic communication can make the difference between getting what you really want, and getting yourself in trouble. What it requires is your ability to put yourself in the reader’s or listener’s shoes and framing your message from that perspective.