The Courage to Speak Up

Very early in my sales career I worked for a company with an interesting philosophy on motivating salespeople. I hadn’t work there very long and I was the newest member of the sales team. We were behind the planned sales goal about halfway through the year. During a sales meeting the General Sales manager announced an “incentive” plan to help motivate the sales team to higher performance. The “incentive” would work like this: if after 30 days we were still behind plan one salesperson would be fired. If after 60 days we will still behind plan 2 sales people would be fired. And on it would go each month until we were either back on plan or there were no salespeople left to fire. 

It was never explained how it would be determined who was going to be fired but I figured I was a pretty strong candidate to get the first axe. 30 days flew by before we knew it. We were still well behind the plan. I came into work that morning expecting it to be a very short day. 

The sales team was gathered in the meeting room waiting, and waiting, for the management team to enter the room. Finally the General Sales Manager’s boss showed up. He announced that no one would be fired…except the General Sales Manager. 

That sure did lighten the mood in the room. 

But it didn’t change the fact that we were working for a somewhat tyrannical company. The big boss was no piece of cake to work for either. As we entered December the company announced a new compensation structure for the sales team. During the busy parts of the year the sales team would be paid a base plus commission. During the slow parts of the year the sales team would be paid only a commission. 

That would have been financial death to many of the salespeople on the team. So a meeting was arranged with Senior Management to discuss this plan. Somehow, to this day I do not understand how, I was elected to be the spokesperson for the sales team.

We met with the management team and they laid out their thinking on the change in the compensation structure. The head guy was very intimidating to most of the team but I was too stupid to realize I should be intimidated. So when the opportunity presented itself to speak up I laid out the concerns of the sales team. 

Senior Management said they had not considered our “cash flow” concerns and asked if we would prefer to stay with the status quo. There were literally shouts of yes and hell yes from the room. Senior Management kind of shrugged and said okay then, we’ll leave well enough alone. 

The next morning I was a hero to the sales team for having the courage to speak out against the big bosses ideas. Never for a moment did I consider that I was speaking “against” anyone. I was merely expressing, in as a professional manner as I could muster, our opinion that it would be very challenging for many of the sales team to pay their bills during the slow season. 

I wasn’t challenging a person, I was challenging the proposed process. I choose my words very very carefully so that it was clear that it was a process issue. Not an issue with the person proposing the process. 

It was a valuable lesson to me early in my career. When we stick to the facts it’s easier to find the courage to speak up. When we leave as much emotion as possible out of the conversation it becomes easier for the person we are speaking with to accept what we are saying. 

Many of the challenges we face in our lives can be traced back to poor or limited communication. When we speak in terms of the other person’s interests, with respect for their point of view, even the most difficult conversation becomes easier. 

Remember, the only way to get the best of an argument is not to argue. Choose your words so that no one involved in the conversation risks losing their self-esteem. 

It can require raw courage to approach tough conversations, especially with someone higher up within your organization. Sometimes you’ll need to forget they are higher up. Sometimes you’ll have to make certain you put your best communication skills to work. 

Either way, staying silent when something must be said will get you nowhere so speak up and you just might move up too.

Want more of LeadToday? I’m changing things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. On March 2nd I began publishing two videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $5 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month. 

If you’re interested in taking a look just head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet just hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success. 🙂

Here’s the link to my Twitter… 

Threatening to End an Argument 

I posted a tweet on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and was surprised by a rather large number of negative responses I received. The post seemed harmless enough…it said basically that you can’t win an argument by yelling. It suggested that rather than raising your voice you should improve your argument. 

I engaged one of the people who responded and said the most memorable statements are more often whispered than yelled. He replied that he wins most arguments by yelling. If yelling doesn’t work he then yells louder while threatening some form of violence. That he said, always does the trick. He said this method works with his kids especially well. 

Twitter limits tweets and responses to 280 characters so I could not even begin to properly reply. There is so much wrong with that line of thinking that I’d need 10 blog posts to do it justice. 

But let’s look at a couple of the problems with that thinking. First…arguing with your children? Really? The person didn’t say how old their kids were but that’s almost irrelevant. If they were very young it’s worse but arguing with your kids is just plain bad at any age. 

Next, arguing with anyone is a fools errand. No one truly wins an argument. Especially by yelling. 

Yelling is a sign that the “yeller” has lost control of their emotions. Threatening violence, especially against their kids, is a sign that they have lost control of their thinking. I can absolutely understand the frustration that comes from not being able to influence another person’s thinking. It can cause anyone to lose control. 

Losing control most often stems from the need to win. Winning an argument for many people means forcing their opinion on someone else. But losing control is far less likely to happen if your position is built with empathy and a sincere desire to help the other person in some way. 

While it’s possible to end an argument with shouts and threats it is not possible to win one that way. In fact, as the great Dale Carnegie wrote, “the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it all together.” 

That doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead. That means making your case supported by facts and a caring heart. If the other person is having a hard time hearing or understanding then whisper instead of yell. 

Remember, if somebody sees you yelling at a person because you think they are an idiot, that somebody may agree there is an idiot in the conversation but they might think the idiot is you. 

They might even be right. 

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP.