Last week we talked about the importance of attacking the problem and leaving the people associated with the problem intact. Today we want to offer you some guidelines for doing so effectively.

 In 1981, Roger Fisher and William Ury wrote a game-changing book called Getting to Yes. They were the first to change the conversation about how to go into a negotiation.  Their work has dramatically changed the world’s perspective on how to approach tough issues with a level of cooperation vs. taking a position and sticking with it.   We credit their initial thinking with shaping how we have come to work with clients around attacking the problem and not the people.

 As with every new skill, this will take practice and it will take pausing (see link) so that you formulate a response vs. simply reacting in the way you are in the habit of doing.  

Back to Jim, our fellow from last week’s post.  He was the person who got blamed in our fictional problem by virtue of the fact that he was the last one to touch the project.  Think of how differently things would go if, after your first reaction of “What the (bleep), Jim!” you took the following steps:

 1. Pause and bring your focus back to clearly defining the problem vs. defining Jim as the problem

 2. Gather the key stakeholders together (including Jim) and lead them into a problem-solving session vs. a blaming session

 3. Get participants to move forward because of a commitment to the organization rather than getting caught up on the notion of “trust” – as in “We can’t trust Jim.”  (We believe in the importance of trust but have a little different taken it that we’ll explore next week.)

 4. Identify a range of possible solutions that are both effective and efficient

 5. Use objective criteria in selecting which option to go with.  The important thing to remember is that it’s not about what should have been done before it’s about what needs to be done now.

 By following these 5 steps, you set the stage to increase your ability to fiercely attack the problem and not the person.

 Take a moment now to think of a time when you were strongly wed to blaming someone and attacked them instead of the problem that they were attached to.  What might you have done differently had you paused and worked through these steps?