We’ve looked at the idea of broadcast behaviours. The recommended action being for consultants to bring more inquiry into conversations. As a result you may start delving deeper into other people’s statements. You can also invite them into your thinking too.
Is the ability to balance advocacy with inquiry worthy of your practice? Here are two examples showing the importance of applying inquiry in real situations.
It was in my early days working on organisational culture change. I was presenting to a board of directors. Advocating a programme to create ‘internal entrepreneurs’. That is people who would drive change.
The Operations Director was critical of the idea. “Do we really need people doing that here? We don’t need the chaos, with these people challenging the status quo. This is not an idea I can support.”
I could see my chance of a £100K project slipping away. So, I switched into ‘objection handling’ sales mode. “Let me tell you all the reasons this is a great idea for your company …”
I made a persuasive argument. But now realise, in doing so, left the Operations Director feeling browbeaten. He was, understandably, resistant to the programme for months afterwards. That was not a good result for me.
Fast forward two-years. The same directors. Another leadership project.
This time the Commercial Director made a snide comment about the pitch deck. The slides had a maroon theme which looked pink when projected onto the screen.
He laughed and said. “How do you expect this stuff to make an impact? Look even your slides are pink and fluffy.”
It was a cheap shot, and felt uncomfortable. Especially since the other board members laughed too. I knew this director wasn’t a fan of mine. But this time instead of going toe-to-toe in persuasion mode, dropped into inquiry.
Acknowledge: I framed the Commercial Director’s comment as important.
“It’s important we notice how soft skills – the pink and fluffy stuff – makes an impact. For example our choice of colours today got a reaction.”
Search: And asked him for examples, which would then outweigh his own argument.
“Has there ever been a time when you’ve seen a leaders soft skills make a big impact?”
Kit: Finally, getting everyone else involved in the conversation.
“What experiences do you all have where explaining the logic for change didn’t work. And situations where something more emotional did?”
This inquiry deflected the comment that could have derailed my presentation. And it bought the conversation around to the importance of soft skills which is what I wanted.
And, of course, I got the commitment to go ahead at the end of that meeting.
The contrast between the outcomes is stark. The first example shows me using broadcast behaviour to persuade and assert. That created resistance. In the second example the inquiry behaviour influenced and aligned agendas. Which elicited a decision.
Please let me know what you make of these different approaches.