Which game are you playing

There are two games you can plan; the short game and the long game.  The short game can be exciting with many big wins, instant rewards and cheers from the peanut gallery.  The long game can often be tedious, the rewards are delayed and it is often played alone.

The short game is frequently either transactional (I’ll do this for you and you do something for me) or reliant on authority or hierarchy.  The long game is more frequently based on relationships and mutual respect.

It is true that the short game can frequently get quicker or even better results . . . . . . in the short term.  It is also true that the short game can require less effort . . . . . . on a per project basis.  The long term, on the other hand, requires more effort in the moment but the pay off in the long run is greater.

Think of a situation where you an employee hasn’t done all of his work.  A short game would be to order the employee to get it done, maybe including a sharp word or warning.   In the future, you are going to have to watch the employee’s work harder.  The long game is to understand why that employee didn’t do the work and to identify any larger issues.  Then, in the long game, partner with the employee to develop processes to ensure the work gets done right and in a timely basis.  In the long game, the employee is more likely to work harder and better in the future and you are less likely to keep looking over the employee’s shoulder.

The opposite of “conflict” is not “surrender.”

A new client of mine has always been the peacemaker.  She’s been the one at home and on the job who made things happen by avoiding all conflict.  Now she owns the family business and she still avoids conflict.  When the contractors don’t turn in their reports on schedule, my client will still do whatever is needed to make sure they get paid on time on time.  When an employee doesn’t get important tasks done on time, she’ll simply say to do it now and then will put in extra effort to make sure everything is done and monitored going forward.

Conflicts have been avoided but at what cost?  My client is exhausted.  She knows she should be spending more time developing new business but all of the extra work and interruptions has made it impossible for her.  Avoiding conflict may have helped her avoid small periods where period are unhappy but now she is unhappy pretty much all the time.  It is costing her sanity and business.

Our first task was to show her the cost of conflict avoidance.  Next, we developed a series of processes and rules that made some of the conflicts unnecessary.  Finally, we practiced ways to address a situation where instead of having a conflict with the other person, you recruit them to be part of the solution.  It has only been a few weeks but the small changes are adding up.  At our last session, she told me that she was able to bid on a half-million dollar job that she would have had to pass on without our improvements.  This is only after two sessions.  I can’t wait to see what she is going to be able to accomplish after a couple of months.

Well that was uncomfortable

A client recently described her business coaching sessions with me as feeling similar to being poked by sticks.  Then she thanked me for the changes I helped her make in her business and she extended our agreement for several months.  A prospective client asked at the end of our first strategy sessions if all of the sessions would be as painful for her.  I said not ALL of them.  She sign up for several months of sessions.

Around a third of my clients cry during at least one of the sessions.  Those are the ones who tend to get the most out of our work together.  I bring value to my clients by making them uncomfortable and pushing their limits.  I wrote awhile ago that my job is the asker of uncomfortable questions and teller of unpleasant truths. asking of uncomfortable questions and teller of unpleasant 

My family is in a position right now where we have to make a couple of really big decisions that could significantly change the direction of our lives.  My wife and I were talking about the different choices.  Suddenly, I started to feel uncomfortable with the conversation.  I did feel like I was getting poked with sticks.  Then I realized it.  My wife was coaching me!  I called her out on it.  She admitted that she was coaching me. It was uncomfortable, effective but uncomfortable.

Training cats, changing people and other pointless exercises

My clients frequently ask me how to change someone else; an employee, a partner or even their boss.  Unfortunately, you can’t change other people.  It simply can’t be done.  People will only change if they want to change.  They have to want it and want to change more than whatever rewards they are currently getting.

We have a hard enough time trying to change ourselves.  Only 8% of people are successful in achieving their own New Year’s resolution.  It takes most people seven or more attempts to change something about themselves like losing weight or stopping smoking.  Those activities are pretty easy to see and, therefore, are easier to change.  Trying to change something that is more subtle, for example being too negative, is even harder.  If we fail so consistently at changing ourselves, imagine how difficult it is to attempt to change other people.

Attempting to change someone is like attempting to train a cat.  Cats don’t train well.  Cats do want they want and why they want it.  My kids do watch a show, My Cat From Hell, on the Animal Planet.  It stars Jackson Galaxy, a self described cat-behaviorist.  Each episode Jackson goes into two households with completely out of control cats and in two or three visits, he completely trains these cats.  When you study what Jackson does though, he doesn’t train the cat.  He modifies the cat’s environment to encourage the cat to want to change.

Let’s examine what Jackson actually does with the cats.  He follows a pretty consistent technique and gets results nearly every time.

1.) De-stress the environment – The first thing Jackson does if find ways to make the cat less stressed.  Stress causes poor decision making in both cats and people.  Jackson de-stresses the environment by adding kitty little boxes, blocking views of neighborhood cats and adding places where the cat feels protected and safe.  Additionally, Jackson will include outlets for the cat.

2.) Improve communication – Then Jackson teaches the owners how to communicate with the cat.  With cats, communication is largely about body language.

3.) Create routines – For example, play with the cat and then feed the cat.  Routines provide a level of predictability.

4.) Change the payoff – Jackson also provide treats and other rewards for positive behavior.  He also removes incentives for negative behaviors.  The change in the reward system helps make the cat want to do positive behaviors.

While you can’t change your employee or partner, you can use a lot of Jackson’s technique to get different outcomes.  You can not change someone.  You can, however, change the environment and reward system to get different outcomes.