FreakoutITGeek's Blog

Random IT postings from Freakz

3 steps to avoiding a Pink Elephant

A few years ago my wife told me about a course that was sweeping through her work. As usual this printed booklet of business guidance was not some marvellous new discovery by someone within the organisation that had just had an epiphany, nope, instead it was prompted by management who were looking to make changes to the culture of the organisation.

The book in question was “Drop the Pink Elephant: 15 Ways to Say What You Mean… and Mean What You Say” by Bill McFarlan (Foreword by Eamonn Holmes)

After my wife read the book she advised that it could be something I would be interested in, so I gave it a try.

The book is well written, funny and well presented ( considering Bill’s background I’m not surprised) but the book becomes something more when you start relating it to your own life.

Let me take you back a few (quite a few) years.

When I was in high school I realised that if I had forgotten to do my homework, the best way to deal with it was to say to the teacher before the class had started, instead of hiding the issue and being caught out in front of everyone. I still use this principal today, there’s no point in hiding issues, as they will happen, and hiding them doesn’t help to resolve them. Being open and honest allows such issues to be discussed and resolutions or work arounds to be found ( this is where my systems thinking kicks in – that’s for another post). Hiding issues, in my opinion, only compounds the issue and leads to greater problems later.

So how does my high school attitude to homework and the book relate?

Well they both show that being honest, helpful and open are the best policy.

The key point I took from the book was not to hide what is happening ( the pink elephant of the title) but to acknowledge the issue and take ownership ( a management phrase I don’t like but fits the bill). There is a section in the book about this key area, it mentions (to paraphrase) a 3 stage process…

  1. When issues occur it is better to admit there is an issue (ie apologise)
  2. Explain what has happened
  3. Explain what is going to be done to resolve the issue, not just this time but in the future.

It appears, from what I have heard that some organisations don’t like to apologise as this appear to be an admittance of failure, guilt or other such issue. Admitting to such issues in some
organisations is seen as failure and is seen as a possible route to court action. Personally I would rather apologise for the issue, inconvenience or other factors in a manner that doesn’t leave the organisation open to such action, but allows the recipient (customer) feeling that their feelings, frustrations and issues acknowledged and therefore more willing to engage with the organisation and help in the process of resolving the issue and repair the broken relationship between both parties.

Now this is a simplistic overview, I feel that there is so much more to this topic, such as listening to the customers issues, trying to understand their view point ( there’s the systems thinking again) and working with them to reach a final goal that is to everyone’s benefit.

I highly recommend reading the book (I may even download it to my iPhone) as it has a lot of insights and along with my OU courses has, I believe, had a beneficial influence on my life.


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