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Use Persuasion for Problem Solving

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To persuade or not to persuade to resolve a problem

Picture yourself on a Friday afternoon at the office during reporting season. Your colleagues and you are working hard towards a reporting deadline. The progress  signal has already turned from Green to Amber.

If you guys don’t pull out all the stops and go for broke, it will go Red. So will the  management of the company where you work when they try to explain the delay to stakeholders.

Along comes the auditor who has to review the work and sign-off. Although for this particular report, he will not be auditing the numbers, he comes up with a piece of  information which on first look is not relevant to the current report and can be put in as a note for the future. It will not impact the report but not humoring the auditor may result in a delay in the sign-off.

Leave management alone for the moment, you and your colleagues, worn out from late night working are seeing red and ready to gore the auditor who is simply managing his risk and trying to “add value” to justify his fees at what  I would describe is a most inopportune time. The auditor with his new information becomes a problem. It is up to you to decide the magnitude of the problem as well as how to solve it.

Since the auditor interacts with higher management, it would not be a good time to launch into criticism and shoot him down as a problem-solving option. Besides, the auditor may have inadvertently brought up a point which may require some attention and more than just a line in your report. Perhaps an acknowledgement that an issue is developing but that the outcome can only be determined when more information is available or that the outcome cannot be quantified will be enough?

So one of you is delegated to have a quick look at the issue and you confirm that it is not relevant right now. A one-liner or two in the report suffices and you can proceed with the task at hand.

But what about Mr Auditor, who having alerted management to the issue will now require justification to prove him wrong and is going hammer and tongs with his emails to your team and management? Do you shoot off emails left, right and centre criticizing him? Not a good idea. For one, you still have to work with the auditor this year. For another, most people respond defensively when receiving criticism.  You don’t want Mr Auditor seeing red! You also don’t have the time to launch into the finer aspects of constructive criticism which would anyhow be out of place in this scenario since the auditor is not your subordinate or reporting to you. Still, a message has to be conveyed to Mr Auditor and management has to receive justification for not changing the decided action plan.

At this point, you need to kill two birds with one stone without upsetting anyone.

You could still go with the problem solving approach wherein a meeting would be held with the auditor and minutes forwarded to management. The emphasis here would be on solving the problem by getting the team members and auditor involved, listening to their views, and depersonalizing the criticism. There goes the rest of Friday too.

 

Persuasion Approach to Problem Solving

A better way out in this scenario would be to use the persuasion approach, where the team leader does more talking than listening and appeals to the person’s interest or desire. Using this approach shows understanding of the person’s concerns and issues and stresses the potential positive outcomes.

So, assuming that you now have the information you need to confirm your viewpoint, instead of talking, compose a memo to be sent to the team’s reporting manager who will then take the initiative of forwarding it to the auditor and any other relevant stakeholder and proceed with your work to make Amber go back to Green instead.

My suggested approach before writing your memo would be:

Step 1
Plan your persuasion approach by jotting down notes on all the points to be covered. In this case, double check for accuracy of facts with the team member who took time out to do the extra research.

Step 2
Start writing your memo and discuss only the specifics, which would include any future actions or outcomes (or both).

Step 3
Write down some things that you can say to show understanding to the auditor or other party. Make sure that you do write something positive for the other person.

Step 4
Indicate what steps you have taken and also those that you intend to take including an action plan to be tabled for a meeting in the future with all parties, if necessary.

The problem may not disappear immediately but having made a written business case based on facts, you can use the art of persuasion to bring others around to your viewpoint.

So send off the memo to your reporting manager and get back to work!

 

Are you having similar problems at work and need to learn how to handle them? Share in the comments area and let me see how I can assist.

Contact me today for a free consult and learn more about our Career Coaching service.

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27 Responses to “Use Persuasion for Problem Solving”

  1. Good tips for getting out of what could be a sticky situation. Especially like your suggestion to write it down. That always helps getting clear about the solution.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks Martha. When things are put in writing, we have a chance to see if what we are thinking makes sense or non-sense!

  2. A great 4 step model to deal with tricky situations, a lesson to all

  3. Thank you, Vatsala, your suggestions are excellent! Love this: “A better way out in this scenario would be to use the persuasion approach, where the team leader does more talking than listening and appeals to the person’s interest or desire. Using this approach shows understanding of the person’s concerns and issues and stresses the potential positive outcomes.”

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks Alexandra. When we are under pressure, our behavior may deviate from our normal selves. At that time, it helps to have someone persuade us while acknowledging our situation.

  4. Since I work by my self I have never had to deal with this. But when I get behind my own dead lines, some times I have to take a deep breath and see were I have made progress. What is the next important piece and get busy on that.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      It helps to take a short breather to regain focus on the most important task. Thanks for sharing this tip, MarVeena.

  5. Lisa Wells says:

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Dealing with sticky situations, not fun! You gave some good tips here. Thanks! Like the idea of writing things down…

  7. Robin Strohmaier says:

    Great tips for getting out of a sticky situation. I especially like your suggestion to write it down to bring clarity and focus.

  8. Thanks for this! I could see how that could really work. So many sticky situations this could apply to!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks Leslie. I wrote based on my corporate world experience but the lessons and methods apply to any area of life requiring some un-sticking.

  9. Shelley Webb says:

    I too, like the suggestion of the written word. These words may be needed to help jog your memory if the problem is not rectified and it goes before a superior.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I agree, Shelley. Post stress, we may not be able to fully recall what the issues were and how they were approached. Thanks for dropping by at the blog.

  10. Pat Moon says:

    When there is a problem it is so important to contribute to the solution rather than be a part of the problem. You made some very good points about problems and how to handle them.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Absolutely, Pat. Unfortunately, when we are under pressure, we need to distance our self from the issue. Writing gives us that buffer time if counting to 10 does not.

  11. Sharon O'Day says:

    Nothing will put stress on a work situation faster than having worked “too late for too long.” At that point, anyone who raises any issue that seems to put the trajectory to completion at risk will raise emotions even further. In order for cooler heads to prevail, you need some sort of defusing mechanism. And your suggestion to write out a business case that is sensitive to all sides could serve that very purpose. Great recommendation!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for the validation of my recommendation, Sharon. We’ve both seen the scenario in action and if we knew then what we know now….. These situations have the possibility of spiraling out of control if not contained and even though the task gets down, there is the collateral damage of strained or ruined professional relationships.

  12. Great tips! Step 1 for me stands out as I often write notes before I speak with others if it’s about something that is very important. Seeing your own persuasive points down in black and white and it’s always good to be prepared.

  13. Liz Bigger says:

    What great advice to handle this crazy situation! Thanks for sharing~

  14. Love it! I need to try this on some clients 😛

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I believe the world would be a better place if high achieving professionals accepted setbacks and challenges to their careers as Wake Up Calls to embark on a Journey where their empowered course correcting actions create a New World Order that encompasses achieving their career aspirations & potential with authentic life balance.

Using a combination of intuition and analytical skills, I help my clients identify their real issues with exercises to still their mind and allow their inner feeling to emerge in a place of confidentiality and trust.

I work with driven, passionate, talented and ambitious professionals who’ve hit a speed breaker in their business or career create their desired breakthrough reclaiming control of their situation with customized strategies and tactics that work.

When my clients first come to me, they are not in a very happy place and need clarity about themselves and their chosen vocation. Their professional problems are playing havoc with other areas of their life. They know they need to take radical steps to change the status quo but they also know that they need support and accountability to get them their desired result.

I really get it, because at one point, I also experienced getting lost in my work rationalizing decisions that were detrimental to the other aspects of my life. I’ve struggled with and won battles of stress management, life balance and career decisions to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired life according to my personal Manifesto and have created a business that provides me with a platform for my desired lifestyle and self-expression for myself. I want that for you too!

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Email: Vatsala(at)karmicallycoaching(dot)com Phone:91 9818517664
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