If you just had time


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What would you have done differently?

I was visiting a team of administrators this week to give them a presentation on how to work more effectively with another department. Whilst I was fine tuning my presentation I over heard two people having a conversation that really wasn’t going anywhere. Lets call them A and B for simplicities sake.

A wanted B to do a piece of work. B was in the middle of doing something and states that he cannot do that right now. These two points of view were repeated a few times with out much more being added or taken away. The result was A walked away saying “fine whatever”.

Both A and B were clearly trying to convey a message that didn’t seem to be resonating with the other person. So it got me thinking what was going wrong and how could they have had a more productive exchange?

It really boils down to one factor. Time.

  • Time to think
  • Time to converse
  • Time to agree
  • Time to action

Some people say that Time is the most valuable thing you have. I must say that it’s pretty difficult to deny. No matter how hard you try, time is basically linear. The only choice you really have is what do you spend your time on, not whether to spend it at all.

So let’s review the conversation again. Person A has already spent time on thinking about the piece of work he wants to give to B. He approaches B and spends time detailing the subject. B becomes somewhat defensive and is unable to spend any time thinking, agreeing, taking action and even to some degree even conversing! What would have been great to see at this point is A recognising this and restarting his own time process.

  1. Think – why is B not able to just accept what I’m saying and take on this work?
  2. Converse – ask them, now that A has given himself time to think “what’s wrong here, what have I missed or not considered?”
  3. Agree – during the agree section, A must allow B time to take to two previous steps to think about what is being proposed and to converse over any issues or questions they may have. Once both A and B have been able to Think and Converse they can agree how to move forward.
  4. Action – A’s action will be to check after the time allotted that B has been able to complete the work assignment. B’s action will be to carry out the work or if something happens to start the process again so that he can explain what stopped them.

Now here comes the punchline. If you miss a step what happens?

  • Think, but nothing else. You’re left wondering what went wrong and start to assign blame.
  • Converse, but nothing else. Conversing with someone without thinking, agreeing or taking action? That’s sounding awfully like an argument!
  • Agree. Agreement has to be on both sides.Without the others, this isn’t agreeing, it’s demanding!
  • Action, with out the rest is throwing your hands up in the air and saying “fine whatever!”

So the next time you find yourself in a situation and can sense it’s not being as productive as you had hoped, consider the four steps to time. Start from step 1 and see what happens if you just had time…