Volume 14, Issue 2 - March/April 2012

Customer Service
tips for quality service

What’s More Important Than Being Right
by Carl Tompkins


Believe it or not, there is one subject within business that actually outweighs “being right.” And that subject is what I’m going to refer to as “how to be right.”

A major part of conducting business is making decisions. Often more than one person usually is involved within this process. You, more than likely, have at some point been a part of that process and had the right answer, yet it wasn’t accepted. Why?

Accept the Best Answer
From what I’ve learned through study and experience, there are three major reasons why people in business don’t accept the best answer in solving a problem. The first up is “position.” Typically, someone higher up in the organization must approve and often he or she does not, because the solution comes from a subordinate; the value of lower ranking input is discounted. Now, all bosses claim to be open-minded and to welcome all levels of input. But in the real world, they value their own opinion as being the better choice. Another factor coming into play within the “position” issue is that the minds of bosses are often pre-occupied with conflicting thought processes; there is too much of something else going on that inhibits their ability to really concentrate on subordinate input and give it full and fair consideration.

The second reason is due to incompetence. Yes, there are many around and above you in business who know far less than you about a number of subjects. I recall hearing a regional manager claim that “being smart has very little to do in getting to the top of my organization.” His comment was in reflection on how the company was hurt as a result of bad decisions being made by management.

“Make sure to protect all involved parties from ‘criticism injury.’”

His experience was further validated through a study completed through the University of Tulsa by psychologists Robert Hogan and John Morrison. As part of their study on learning what caused people to be promotable in business, they discovered that 60-to-70-percent of managerial employees were incompetent in completing their job assignment. Most achieved their position because they were “liked” by their supervisor and not for their business savvy.

The final reason is due to the mode of delivery. Here businesses suffer a bad outcome as a result of politics and pride. There are those people who place more concern over your approach and choice of words than the merit of your recommendation. It is pitiful to have to admit to this but it’s the truth and must be considered.

Getting Past the Barriers
In order to break down any of these three barriers, two things must be accomplished. First, do your homework and be prepared with the correct answer or solution; be able to validate your recommendation. The second is to make sure the “how” of being right is conducted the best way possible. To be more exact in describing this portion of assignment, you must present your recommendation in a manner that is acceptable by the target audience. As I always say in an advanced selling skills course I teach, “it’s not whether you’re right or wrong that counts, it’s your presentation that creates the greatest influence.”

First, maintain a balcony perspective within the discussion, meaning, keep the big picture in mind and do not become over-engaged. Remember, your target is the right solution and the process you follow is critical to hitting the bull’s-eye. The second tip is to share the wealth and credit for solving the problem with as many of these who are involved as possible. Here, and only in this situation, is “passing the buck” appropriate. In our case, we’re passing the buck of credit. The third tip of instruction is to always “earn the right” to present solutions, which simply refers to attaining permission to share a recommendation. It’s pretty hard for someone to be critical of you after they’ve given you permission to proceed. Finally, make sure to protect all involved, or potentially involved, parties from “criticism injury.” People in the workplace have a growing need for security and you don’t want the process of being right to throw people under the bus. When this occurs, people’s defenses go up and progress grinds to a halt. Make recommendations futuristic in nature; not critical of the past. When you follow the theme that you’re taking a given situation and making it better for everyone in the future; everyone wins.

Put these tips to work and you’ll then be able to afford the time to enjoy positive progress rather than stewing over what went wrong.

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for SIKA Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich., and the author of “Winning at Business.” He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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