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The Solution

This is generally a problem of not knowing how to STATE

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your path. When something bothers you, catch it early.

Contrasting can also help. “I’m not trying to blow this out of

proportion. I just want to deal with it before it gets out of

hand.” Describe the specific behaviors you’ve observed.

“When Jimmy leaves his room a mess, you use sarcasm to get

his attention. You call him a ‘pig’ and then laugh as if you

didn’t mean it.” Tentatively explain the consequences . “I don’t

think it’s having the effect you want. He doesn’t pick up on the

hint, and I’m afraid that he’s starting to resent you” (Your

story) . Encourage testing: “Do you see it differently?”

Finally, Learn to Look for signs that safety is at risk, and Make

It Safe. When you STATE things well and others become defen­

sive, refuse to conclude that the issue is impossible to discuss.

Think harder about your approach. Step out of the content, do

what it takes to make sure your partner feels safe, and then try

again to candidly STATE your view.

When spouses stop giving each other helpful feedback, they

lose out on the help of a lifelong confidant and coach. They miss

out on hundreds of opportunities to help each other communicate

more effectively.



YEAH, BUT 1 97



MY TEAMMATES ARE hypocrites. We get together and

talk about all the ways we could improve, but then

people don’t do what they agreed to. ”

The Danger Point

The worst teams walk away from problems like these. In good

teams, the boss eventually deals with problem behavior. In the

best teams, every team member is part of the system of account­

ability. If team members see others violate a team agreement,

they speak up immediately and directly. It’s dangerous to wait for

or expect the boss to do what good teammates should do them­


The Solution

If your teammate isn’t doing what you think he or she should, it’s

up to you to speak up.

We realized this after watching a group of executives that

agreed they’d hold off on all discretionary spending to help free

up cash for a short-term crunch. This strategy sounded good in

the warm glow of an off-site meeting, but the very next day a

team member rushed back and prepaid a vendor for six months

of consulting work-work that appeared to be “discretionary.”

A team member who saw the executive prepare for and then

make the prepayment didn’t realize this was the crucial conver­

sation that would determine whether the team would pull

together or fall apart on this issue. Instead, he decided it was up

to the boss to hold this person accountable. He said nothing. By

the time the boss found out about the transaction and addressed

the i ssue. the policy had already been violated and the money




spent. Motivation to support the new plan dissipated, and the

team ran short of cash.

When teams try to rally around aggressive change or bold new

initiatives, they need to be prepared to address the problem

when a team member doesn’t live up to the agreement. Success

does not depend on perfect compliance with new expectations,

but on teammates who hold crucial conversations with one

another when others appear to be reverting to old patterns.



guessing what they think I’m willing to hear. They take “YEAH, BUT . . .

little initiative in solving important problems because

they’re afraid 1’1/ disagree with them. ”

The Danger Point

When leaders face deference-or what feels like kissing up­

they typically make one of two mistakes. Either they misdiagnose

the cause (fear), or they try to banish deference with a brash


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