Dealing with Naysayers

Every process improvement, every experiment, requires us to persuade others. There is a diversity of ideas, of needs, of requirements from stakeholders. I’ve written before about practicing “Yes..But…And“. Sometimes you just find people who are in naysayer category and you should have strategies for dealing with them. Try these:

  • Have you acknowledged the individual and their concerns? Sometimes the person simply wants to acknowledged. Although the naysayer’s actions can be frustrating because they are delaying the process of implementing, it can be worth it – and save time in the long run – to meet with the individual and listen to their concerns and thoughts.
  • What is the person not saying? Do they feel threatened or excluded?
  • As the individual how they would handle the challenge your idea seeks to solve. When you listen to them, you may find you have a kernel of common agreement upon which to build. Listen to their arguments against your idea – that could help you as you sell your idea to stakehoders and build an army of volunteers.
  • Does your idea potentially affect the naysayer’s area? Could it be a matter of a turf war? Can you gain insights by seeing things from their perspective – for example how would you feel if someone offered a similar idea that affected your team?
  • Does the person have someone whom they respect and will listen to? Can you discuss your idea with that individual and ask them to speak with the naysayer?
  • Are there other allies whom you can persuade and whom you can gain as allies to counter the naysayer? You may have to accept that the naysayer won’t come around to your idea.
  • Reach out to the naysayer for casual conversation to try to establish a collegial bond and build a better relationship for the long term.
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Practice Exuberance

Love what you do. Love the practice of quality. Your enthusiasm will take you a long way. If you don’t love the work you do, well…. maybe get a different job, or if you are like me, learn to exude exuberance.

Your enthusiasm is the secret sauce of quality success. It is the launching pad to get folks to listen, learn, participate and strive for changes. You should inspire hope, energy, and excitement about the future.

Please don’t confuse enthusiasm with entertainment. Enthusiasm is a passion for what you do, commitment to whom you do it form, and confidence in how you do it.

I am passionate about quality and building systems. And yes, some days I have more enthusiasm than others. We all have days like that. So have a few ways to help:

  • Look for ways to do something out of the ordinary
  • Examine the parts of my work I enjoy the least and then look for opportunities to fix them.
  • Keep a smile file.
  • Try something new regularly
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Five Year Career Plan

Do not ask this question during interviews. The answers are always inane, the question is inane, it is a waste of precious interview time.

We cannot plan for the future. If we could I would be living on a space station, painting giraffes as my 4-year-old self anticipated. For those wondering, I have no space station or giraffe in my life.

There are just too many factors beyond your control that will shape job options–global economic trends, political elections, and technological changes, just to name a few. Please do yourself the favor and avoid committing the hubris of thinking that anyone can determine their professional glide path.

What we can control are the options we choose now to give ourselves more options in the future. A better question is “What do you want to learn in this job and how can we help make that happen?”

Dealing with Emotional Ambivalence

Wordcloud for Ambivalence

Ambivalence, the A in VUCA, is a concept that quality professionals struggle with. We often call it “navigating the gray” or something similar. It is a skill we need to grow into, and definitely an area that should be central to your development program.

There is a great article in Harvard Business Review on “Embracing the Power of Ambivalence” that I strongly recommend folks read. This article focuses on emotional ambivalence, the feeling of being “torn” and discusses the return to the office. I’m not focusing on that topic (though like everyone I have strong opinions), instead I think the practices described there are great to think about as we develop a culture of quality.

ISPE’s cultural excellence model

Share your stories

As we move through of careers we all have endless incidents that can either be denied and suppressed or acknowledged and framed as “falls,” “failures,” or “mistakes.” These so-called falls all enhance our professional growth. By focusing on the process of falling, and then rising back up, we are able to have a greater understanding of the choices we have made, and the consequences of our choices.

Sharing and bearing witness to stories of failure from our professional and personal lives provide opportunities for us to explore and get closer to the underlying meaning of our work, our questions of what is it that we are trying to accomplish in our work as quality professionals. Our missteps allow us to identify paths we needed to take or create new stories and new pathways to emerge within the context of our work. As we share stories of tensions, struggles, and falling down, we realized how important these experiences are in the process of learning, of crafting one’s presence as a human being among human beings, of becoming a quality professional.

We may not have asked for a journey of struggle when we decided to become quality professionals, but the process of becoming tacitly involves struggle and difficulty. There is a clear pattern among individuals who demonstrate the ability to rise strong pain and adversity in that they are able to describe their experiences, and lay meaning to it.

It is important to recognize that simply recognizing and affirming struggle, or that something is not going as it should, does not necessarily lead to productive change. To make a change and to work towards a culture of excellence we must recognize that emotions and feelings are in the game. Learning to lead is an emotionally-laden process. And early-stage professionals feel exceptionally vulnerable within this process. This field requires early-stage professionals to hone their interpersonal, technical, and organizational skills, all while turning their gaze inward to understanding how their positioning in the organization impacts can be utilized for change. Novice professionals often struggle in terms of communicating ideas orally or in writing, being able to manage multiple tasks at once, staying on top of their technical content, or even thinking critically about who they are in the broader world. Early-stage professionals are always on the brink of vulnerability.

Share your stories. Help others share theirs.

I’m organizing a PechaKucha/Ignite event as part of the ASQ’s Team and Workplace Excellence Forum to sharpen our stories. More details coming soon. Start thinking of your stories to share!

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