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For instance, “I asked you to finish up a task that absolutely

had to be completed before I returned from a trip. You ran into

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a problem, tried to get in touch with me, and then simply left a

message with my four-year-old. What could you have done to

track me down on the road?” or “What would it have taken to

create a backup strategy?”

Pay attention to ways you are compensating for someone’s

lack of initiative. Have you made yourself responsible for fol­

lowing up? If so, talk with that person about assuming this

responsibility. Have you asked more than one person to take the

same assignment so you can be sure it will get done? If so, talk

to the person originally assigned about reporting progress to you

early so you only need to put someone else on the job when

there’s a clear need for more resources.

Stop acting out your expectations that others won’t take initia­

tive. Instead, talk your expectations out and come to agreements




that place the responsibility on the team members while giving

you information early enough that you aren’t left high and dry.


IT ISN’T A SINGLE PROBLEM. It’s that I keep having to

talk with people about the same problem. I feel like I u YEA H, BUT…

have to choose between being a nag and putting up

with the problem. Now what?”

The Danger Point

Some crucial conversations go poorly because you’re having the

wrong conversations. You talk to someone who is late for a

meeting for the second time, Then the third. Your blood begins

to boil. Then you bite your lip and give another gentle reminder.

Finally, after your resentment builds up (because you’re telling

yourself an ugly story) , you become violent. You make a sarcas­

tic or cutting comment and then end up looking stupid because

the reaction seems way out of line given the minor offense.

If you continue to return to the original problem (coming in

late) without talking about the new problem (failing to live up to

commitments), you’re stuck in “Groundhog Day.” We talk about

this problem using the Groundhog Day movie metaphor. If you

return to the same initial problem, you’re like Bill Murray in the

movie-you’re forced to relive the same situation over and over

rather than deal with the bigger problem. Nothing ever gets


The Solution

Learn to Look for patterns. Don’t focus exclusively on a single

event. Watch fol’ behavior over time. Then STATE Your Path by

talking about t h(: pu1 t(:rn, Por example, if a person is late for




meetings and agrees to do better, the next conversation should

not be about tardiness. It should be about his or her failure to

keep a commitment. This is a bigger issue. It’s now about trust

and respect.

People often become far more emotional than the issue they’re

discussing warrants because they’re talking about the wrong

issue. If you’re really bothered because of a pattern, but you’re

talking about this latest instance, your emotions will seem out of

proportion. In contrast, an interesting thing happens when you

hold the right conversation. Your emotions calm down. When

you talk about what’s really eating you-the pattern-you’ll be

able to be more composed and effective.

Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will

seem trivial. Talk about the overall pattern.


“YEAH, BUT . . .

IVE BEEN TOLD THAT I should never go to bed angry. Is

that always a good idea?”

The Danger Point

Once you’ve become angry, it’s not always easy to calm down.

You’ve told yourself an ugly story, your body has responded by

preparing for a fight, and now you’re trying your best not to

duke it out-only your body hasn’t caught up with your brain.

So what do you do? Do you try to stay in dialogue even though

your intuition tells you to back off and buy some time? After all,

Mom said, “Never go to bed angry.”

The Solution

Okay, so your mom wasn’t exactly right. She was right by sug­

gesting that you shouldn’t let serious problems go unresolved.




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