What business are you in?
Sounds like a simple question, doesn’t it? With an obvious, easy answer, right?
The answer is actually universal and applies to everyone in business.
You are in the people business.
Why is that the answer?
Because everything you do in business is about people.
What you sell are relationships that happen to be connected to the product or service your company offers. Once you understand this concept, you will understand the premise of a successful business.
Because you are in the business of people, effective communication becomes vitally important. Yet communication with other people you meet in your business day is one of the most difficult things we all do as humans. That’s why there are so many disputes in business on both the co-worker and customer level. When people don’t clearly communicate what their needs are and they aren’t willing to compromise, it only creates frustration, delay, disruption and confusion. Which then lessens the productivity of your business day.
This reminds me of when I was 26 years old. A manufacturing company recognized potential in my business management abilities and wanted me to relocate to Cleveland to take over one of their divisions. The owner invited me out to dinner. During the dinner I made a fatal communication mistake. All I did was talk. All I did was tell the owner how wonderful I was. I didn’t listen. I kept talking. In turn, he gave me a most valuable business lesson. He said: You know, you’re not listening to me. When we agree, there is really nothing to listen to because we agree. The times you want to listen are when we disagree. That’s when it’s time to pay attention because if you understand the disagreement you can solve it.
Again, being young and foolish, I didn’t get the message. Nor did I get the job. All because I didn’t listen. I didn’t pay attention to what was really being said. I didn’t find common ground with the owner of the business. Lesson learned. And it has served me well over the years in business; as well as in life.
When there is a disagreement, here are the 2 important steps to follow for effective business communications:
1) Pay attention and LISTEN.
The most important time to pay attention is when someone is disagreeing with you. Don’t just listen with your ears. Listen by giving the other person your complete attention. Be present with the other person so you can fully hear them. If you don’t you won’t solve whatever needs solved. Most people today, with all the multi-tasking, constant distractions and too much on the daily to-do list, don’t take the time to fully listen to each other. Instead, they continue to press or sell their point-of-view without fully understanding the other person’s point-of-view.
When you talk with others, make sure they understand what you are saying. Ask them to summarize what is being said at appropriate points in the conversation to avoid further issues in the disagreement. This gives you the opportunity to clarify what was said quickly in order to make progress in resolving differences.
2) Find common ground.
Finding common ground means: What can you agree upon? There is always something that you can agree upon with the other individual(s) involved. If you can establish common ground, if you get agreement on those core common ground points, then you can start to discuss the more challenging issues.
You start by looking at the disagreement from their point-of-view. Ask yourself:
– What is their point-of-view?
– What are they really saying?
– Should I reconsider what I’m thinking?
– Or reconsider what I’m doing?
– Should I reconsider how I’m interacting with them?
– How I’m overall thinking?
– Do I need to change my thinking on this in any way?
By doing so, you can arrive at some level of compromise. No one person should “win” in the conversation. Everyone should be able to share their thoughts. Everyone involved should get something out of the conversation. Everyone should agree at some level. In addition, everyone should feel like they won and didn’t have to give everything up when expressing their point-of-view. Everyone should walk away satisfied with the outcome of the discussion rather than the having the disagreement continue on till it becomes blown out of proportion. Which only disintegrates the importance of the business relationship.
If you don’t listen… if you’re not paying attention… if you don’t find common ground…
Then you’re going to have more problems than you would like in your business day. You will never reach the point of knowing everything. Every day is a learning experience and an opportunity to understand the business you’re in more than the day previous.
Starting today, make it a priority to really listen to the people you encounter in your business day. If you do, you will find that listening goes a long way towards being successful every business day. It will make the world a better place to work in.
Remember: you are in the people business.