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What happens when you tell the truth to tough people?

Better Business

November 25, 2014

What happens when you tell the truth to tough people?

Young people don't tell the truth. They don't mean to not tell the truth, rather they don't seem to know what truth to tell. I think it is more about not knowing what is the really useful information to share, not wanting to appear difficult, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings and protecting their newly acquired power base.

The reality as you age is that you get tougher. No, that's not universally true, but if you are dealing with people who are in business for themselves who have been in business for a long time - those people with have become tougher as they gain experience and age.

The beauty of tougher people is that they have thicker skins, they look for the win for everyone in most situations and they understand the value in getting the right things right. That sounds like a lot of the right stuff going on but I do think it is a bit like that. I have a couple of suppliers who are grown ups, have thick skins and know when to go out of their way to get something done or make something right. To those people I can tell the absolute truth e.g. "we have two hours before everything goes tits up" or "client is very anxious about the outcome so make sure you get it there on time" and they will pull out all stops. But that happens because I also tell them that other jobs are not urgent or that I am very happy or that the client is very happy with how we exceeded their expectations. I make sure that they know that I appreciate them without telling them that they are awesome. Because they aren't awesome, they are doing the job they took on and delivering on the promise that they have made. That's not awesome, it is their job. The same as it is our job to live up to the promises we make.

Tougher people look for the win for everyone
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The key to allowing tougher people to get the job done is to make sure they know as much about the situation as possible. This is where truth telling comes in. I have had situations where I know there is more that I need to know but I am not sure what is is – unknown unknowns. Asking the question "tell me everything…" doesn't work because people filter according to what they think you should know. Asking younger clients how they make their decisions, who else is involved, when they might know more etc. just makes me look like a school marm and makes them feel like slightly reprimanded kids – an unhappy outcome for everyone.

I don't have a solution to this. Some people appear to wait until they can trust the other person before spilling the beans. I would love it if I could hand out a card that said "I have been around the block a few times so the more you tell me the more effective I can be more your behalf" and have it instantly create trust and engender truth telling. Not the sexiest fantasy but one that would save heaps of time if it came true.

Smart people use more experienced people as a well of info & support
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All of us thick skinned folk know about establishing power bases in companies, building and managing reputation, winning the internal politics battles and all the other stuff that has to be done to get careers off and running and build momentum to carry through absences like maternity leave. We know because we have done it. Our role as suppliers into those companies is to help our clients win as well as delivering on the service we offer. Our positioning is to be a robust ally and supporter to our clients. Read anything on sales and you will see this being taught. Fooey to having it taught, it is an obvious role for someone with loads of experience to take – passing that experience on is how we help each other learn. Smart people will use those with more experience as a well of useful information and support.

A friend who teaches sailing to little kids tells them that being beaten by someone better is a good thing. He encourages them to team up with that better sailor and go out and practice together to learn from the kid with better skills. He tells the kids to keep on looking for sailors with better skills right throughout their sailing career / hobby. Its really good advice - find someone better than you at what you are doing and learn as much as you can from them. Pretty basic but it does require ego to be put aside. And that can be the hardest part. I can't help there, either your ego is more important than learning or you want to improve by learning more – your choice.

So surround yourself with tough people who have thick skins and spill the beans, find people with better skills and ask for their help, soon enough you will reap the benefit.