HYCS #25 – How to say “That’s crazy!” and not get fired

HYCS #25 – How to say “That’s crazy!” and not get fired

If you’re thinking that’s not possible, read on.

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Word Count: 721

Reading Time: 2.2 minutes

Assignment Time:  5 minutes to practice it, no additional time to use the model

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“We need to train everyone, right way!  That’s 35, plus 10, plus, 8…53 altogether.

We need to see immediate improvement in their performance.

We have a very small budget.”

When I hear this – and I hear it often – I think:  “That’s crazy talk!”  This client has lost their mind.  It’s probably temporary and due to anxiety, but still:  Their mind is gone, gone, gone.

As quick as I can, I put a piece of paper between us.  Frowning thoughtfully, I draw three circles.  This calms us both down.  It also gives me time to decide what to put in those circles.  I want the model I draw to do a few things:

  • Restore sanity in a way that doesn’t restart the anxiety cascade in my client’s mind
  • Describe my client’s complex reality in a simple way
  • Most of all, the model I draw has to give my client hope.

I’m going to say that again:  More than anything, I need to give my client hope.

Being able to reduce some aspect of their overwhelming situation to three circles on a piece of paper is very hope-inducing.

It also establishes my credibility, and bypasses resistance. “Why aren’t I using models?” you might be thinking.  At least, I hope that’s what you’re thinking.

I go for the obvious:  In each circle, I write one of these 3 words:  Good. Fast. Cheap.  I have to know which one is less important than the other two.  This backfires immediately.

“That’s exactly what I want:  Fast, good and cheap,” she says.

“Who doesn’t?  Sadly, you can have any two of these, but not all three. “

We talk through an example like getting something printed quickly.

“If you want high quality  fast, you’ll have an upcharge from the printer.  You’ll have an upcharge from your designer too.  Or, you could decide to let go of quality and print your own design on the copier at work.”

“I’ve had to make that call several times.”

“How did you figure it out?”

“It depended on the situation.  Sometimes the quality didn’t matter and I did it myself.  Other times it had to be just so, and I had to absorb the cost.”

“So, you know what I’m talking about when I say we can only have 2 of the 3.”

“Our budget really is tiny.”

“OK.  “Cheap” is a keeper.  Which means we have to take a hit in quality or speed.  Which will it be?”

“That’s really tough.

“Yes.”  And I wait until she works it through.

“If we slow this down, we enter a new fiscal year, and that doubles the available budget.”

“So speed is where you might have some wiggle room.”

“Maybe.  But I’m still on the hook to show results fast.”

“You need fast results, but not necessarily fast training for all 52 people.”

“How would that work?”

“To answer that, I need to know more about the results you need to show.”

Before I can help with my client’s work problem, I have to help with her reality problem.  Running 52 people through a training program without preparation or follow-through is not going to yield results.  She knows that.  I have to find a way to remind her.  Using a model that describes reality she knows helps to ground her.  Only then can we get to her real need, and to the real work.

I know you’ve got clients who are so caught up in their anxiety or their wishful thinking, they are talking crazy.  You’ve got business partners who are doing that too.

Nothing cuts through anxiety like drawing a simple model on a piece of paper and working through an example that your client can handle successfully.  Use some simple problem that they’ve already solved a bazillion times.  When they are calm and full of hope, bring them back to the issue at hand.

ASSIGNMENT:  Steal this model

1.  Use the Good-Fast-Cheap model with a client to give them hope and help them tell you more of the truth.

2.  It will work better if you practice this on a friend or colleague first.


Let me know how it goes.