Month: September 2014

Just The Facts: Writing to Get Your Problem Resolved

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To get movement in resolving a problem, you’re probably going to have to write to someone.  Whether you’re trying to get justice from the airline or hotel who wronged you on your last business trip or if you need to reach out to a peer to clear a log jam that’s blocking your team, written communication is sometimes the best path forward.  Here’s a simple framework that I’ve found effective over the years for resolving personal and business issues:

  • What’s Wrong: Clearly and concisely state the problem. Keep it factual – not editorial.  No emotions and no speculating on someone else’s frame of mind.  Just the facts.
  • Impact to YOU: Be very specific and unemotional about how the problem impacts (or will impact) you or your team. Again, be concise and factual with no editorial comments.
  • Impact to the READER: Make it clear that you realize you may not be the only one impacted and that this isn’t 100% about you. How might the reader also be impacted?  Beware of sounding threatening; you probably won’t need to connect all the dots for the reader.  An overview of the “dots” is enough.
  • Propose a Solution: Never dump the problem on the reader, as he may well “solve” your problem but not in the way you’d hoped. This can leave you negotiating your way out of a solution that you asked for.  Instead, give the reader a quick and graceful exit by proposing a solution that can be accepted or countered.  Clarify how your proposal benefits all parties.  This way, you stand a better chance of getting the result that you want or at least negotiating something close enough.
  • Follow Up: Let the reader know when you plan to follow up, proposing a reasonable amount of time and then do so.
  • Respect: Be smart about cc’ing others if you’re trying to resolve a business issue. Ask yourself what impact this may have on the reader and on getting the results you want.  Will cc’ing others truly help or will it “give the reader something to think about?”  Don’t give them something to think about.  Get the problem solved.

I like to say that it’s always better to give someone a printed sheet and a red pen than a blank sheet and a black pen.  Applying this approach, along with some respect and common sense, should allow you to quickly solve your problem and move on.

© 2014, Mark E. Calabrese

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I Was Told

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Don’t say this.  Ever.  No, really.  No one in a leadership position should be caught saying “I was told.”  Such thinking can be indicative of a bad mindset and also sends a bad message to both your teams and your business partners.  Nothing says “not me” like the phrase, “I was told.”

Once you assume an executive role, you take on the responsibility of leading even when you may not like where you must lead.  You do have the right to respectfully and tactfully question your own leadership, but once the decision has been made, you have two choices – deal with it or quit.  Part of dealing with it is getting behind the team you are on and leading the resources assigned to you in order to execute and support your firm’s mission.

The message you send to your team when you play the “I was told” card is that your first loyalty is to the team you lead.  To be an effective leader within your firm, your first loyalty must be to the leadership team of which you are an integral part.  The team that reports to you are your resources that you must effectively lead in order to add value to your team and to your firm by getting things done.  If this paradigm is objectionable, you may be working for the wrong firm.

The message you send to your business partners is that you are not in control and that you lack confidence.  Your business partners need an empowered, confident and effective collaborator – not a victim of circumstances beyond his control.  It is imperative that your business partners view you as someone who can execute and deliver.  If they question this ability, you’ll only be adding to their stress rather than solving their problems.

Own your leadership role and set the right tone for both your teams and your business partners.  You may well have “been told,” but as a leader, you need to either respectfully work behind the scenes to effect change to what you were told or publicly get behind the decision and move forward.

© 2014, Mark E. Calabrese