Recently a client told me a great story about how a change of attitude helped her to keep a valued employee.


Angry and grumbling about among the provisions in the company policy, the employee asked for a personal meeting with my client, the owner of a tiny sales firm, and began to inform her in direct terms what was incorrect. The customer could not hear anything that the worker was saying because she was too busy planning her own rebuttal strategy. It was important to let the employee know that the policy was a good one. On the flip side, she didn’t wish to lose her high revenue representative. She could feel her entire body clenching and emotionally, she was obsessed with what she ought to say.

Luckily, she remembered an old adage from her own sales days: when you’re negotiating to close the sale and you’ve asked for this order, it is almost always true that “the individual who speaks first loses.” The client thought about this, took a deep breath, and listened instead. Almost immediately she felt that the physical tension drain away, and discovered she was really listening to the first time since the worker had begun speaking.

Seek First To Understand

In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, among the most well known of the customs – and possibly most difficult to attain in tough moments – is the 5th Habit: Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood. My customer began to ask questions to find out more about what lay behind the outburst. She became curious, wanting to know as much as she could about her worker’s standpoint. She grew increasingly interested, and soon it became fun to learn how the policy seemed to this individual. The more she listened, the more she may see the situation through other eyes. As she sought clarity, she started to recover her own equilibrium and power. She saw that she could acknowledge and build on her worker’s ideas and at the exact same time speak what was true from her standpoint as the firm’s leader.

Hard on the Problem, Soft on the People

She heard not only the employee’s words but also what motivated the message – the employee was worried about fairness, clarity of communication, as well as the standing of the business. It seemed that they were on exactly the exact same aspect of wanting what was best for everybody. From this frequent ground, the client explained her own view of how the business policy encouraged clarity, equity, and company vision, and especially how sticking to it could encourage the worker in the long run. She was able to remain open to positive suggestions for change and, in the end, to reassert her job as mentor and leader. The business owner helped to spot the difficulty as something they could work on and solve collectively, and the battle became an opportunity to fortify their relationship and their ability to manage future challenges.

Morihei Ueshiba, 20th-century British artist, philosopher, and founder of aikido, is quoted as stating: “Opponents confront us continually, but actually there is no opponent there.” It’s fascinating, rewarding, and an exercise in a different type of power, when we could turn our competitors into allies. It is one thing to think we’re listening, quite another to actually do it — to imagine ourselves in the place of the person we are listening to, and to position the issue so that it could be worked on as a mutual problem-solving endeavor. Try it. You may find that when you have security in your own power, you will have the ability to step away from it temporarily and discover something even better.

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