Last week we discussed how to handle people who offer "suggestions" for improvement. This week we'll discuss how to handle objections to what you want to accomplish, which was also part of my Project + People = Problems workshop at PMI Houston's annual summer conference. This is a sales tactic, but as several sales books will tell you, everyone sells. In a leadership case, most people will find themselves trying to sell the end goal / vision to teams members, outside influencers, or even stakeholders. When a leader does this, people will play the "what-if" game and you will find yourself dealing with objections that range from the well-thought out to the most left field thoughts a person can put in front of you to try and trip you up. When these objections appear, let me share with you the 3F formula that could help resolve some of the issues:
I understand how you Feel. I Felt the same way. When I looked at it, I Found that...
The reason this works is for several reasons:
- First, you are acknowledging them and how they feel. As many people will tell you, people buy with emotions and then try to rationalize the emotions. In this case, you are acknowledging the person and the emotions, which makes them feel more involved.
- Second, by saying you felt the same way, you are building a bridge for indicating that you've been there too. People feel more comfortable when they know there are common feelings and experiences.
- Finally, by saying "I found" you are providing a solution without disagreeing with them or disparaging their opinion. You avoid the trap of dismissing the person out of hand.
In many cases, the person will feel more comfortable and willing to help once you use this process. Unfortunately you can't use 3F blatantly with every objection, because people will notice the pattern and start to feel manipulated. So I offer a similar wording that is almost as effective:
Thank you for bringing this up. We discussed this issue earlier amongst the team (or management, or whatever) when we first learned of it. What we propose is...
Notice that the pattern is the same, although the wording is not. It performs similarly, but doesn't necessarily address the feelings of the person provided.
You can always use the phrase from last week, if the issue / objection is something you either want to explore, or you want to bring the person into team for other reasons. In addition, if you find yourself dealing with someone who isn't moving on from the objection, you can always say:
This sounds like a detailed conversation, and I would like to have it with you. Can we meet later to go through the details?
This phrase is best used when you don't want to sidetrack the entire conversation / meeting. A word of caution with this approach. Everyone in the meeting will know you should have had a conversation, and people will want to know the resolution, so you better schedule the conversation and then publish a result via email or some other form of communication.
Finally, when dealing with objections, try to avoid the words BUT and HOWEVER. These words are dismissive and cause people to feel like their concern was not given it's full consideration. Avoid these words in your language, in your writing, and in your body language (if you can); because as one of my favorite shows said early in Season 1:
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