Your Plan Is Useless

BE04

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.”

William James

Continuing with What You Resist… Persists, I would like to share an utopian example, where the possibility of using the argument of others to get closer instead of distancing, will be shown.

Let us imagine two people in a company: Juan, the Managing Director and Roberto, the Commercial Director. Both of them are successful executives respected by the organization. The scenario is a working session in the boardroom where Roberto presents the marketing strategy, in which he proposes to invest a substantial amount of money to acquire new clients; “the more, the better”. For him, this means a great business opportunity.  He starts his presentation with confidence. He is proud because he has worked with his team during weeks to come up with this plan. But Juan does not agree with the strategy, what he sees is that it would be “allocating too much money” for this project. His position is, that even though he recognizes the importance of investing, what the company needs for now, is to reduce costs and pay their debts. Juan has an important place at the board. It is his responsibility to increase the return and finish the year with a better balance. He has the moral authority to recommend that the marketing plan, instead of needing a bigger investment, gets reduced. However, as the presentation continues, the CEO of the company makes affirmative gestures in which he approves and is excited with Roberto’s presentation. The frustration in Juan grows, and he thinks: <<Why hasn’t anyone seen the problem?>> <<It is easy for him to ask for money, he has no idea about finances.>>  Juan knows he has the necessary arguments to put a stop to Roberto, which will also help him to be recognized within the team.  At the end of the presentation, when Roberto is showing the P&L, Juan interrupts: “I have been here for over 40 minutes listening on how you are going to spend more money, but I can’t see how you are going to bring it back. I am sorry, I don’t agree, I believe you should’ve been better prepared, you should’ve proposed something that was much more efficient on money… it is about trying to spend less, not more.”

Looking at this scenario, there are two possibilities: the first one is, that for fear of being judged by his boss, Roberto gets hooked and strikes back. He thinks: <<This CFO doesn’t have a clue on what marketing is; he only sees numbers and how to save.  The only thing he cares about is to look good in front of the board and cut off budgets.>> Pondering this he answers: “I have more experience on marketing than you do. Much more. And my financial team has built this business plan with me. I am not an expert on finances and I have no interest on becoming one. I am an expert on how to sell.” As he finishes this sentence, his heart beats fast as he waits for the reply.

Meanwhile, Juan answers aggressively, trying to prove he is right: “Look, I was brought on board to streamline resources, that’s what I am doing. I am not here to make life miserable for anyone; I am tired that no one considers the finances a priority. You don’t know about finances. You know how to sell and you are not noticing that following through with this proposal would cost so much to the company that we wouldn’t recover it. I hope it is clear that the goal of the company, in terms of cash flow, is to save money. If you want to present something, make it be something that saves money. I don’t think you are such a good marketing man if you don’t know how.

As Roberto listens to this, he reflects: <<What do I do now? How can I prove that not only do I know how to sell, but I also understand the finances of the company? And what do I do to show the CEO that I understand?>>  Ignoring Juan, Roberto looks at the CEO and says: “It is impossible for me to work with this team. You ask me to look for ways in which to attract new clients and to do the best I can. I have already done the best I can and what I receive is complains and his absolute denial. We are not going to get anywhere from here. It is not possible for Juan to only focus on money and on discrediting my work. I am tired of this.” And without saying it, he thinks: <<you must choose one of us.>>

The CEO ends up in a complex situation. Both Juan and Roberto are right. Any outcome that comes from this means to lose and destroy value both for the company and for the people involved.

Lets now, look at the second possibility within the same scenario when Juan interrupts and says: “I have been here for over 40 minutes listening on how you are going to spend more money, but I can’t see how you are going to bring it back. I am sorry, I don’t agree, I believe you should’ve been better prepared, you should’ve proposed something that was much more efficient on money… it is about trying to spend less, not more.”

This time, Roberto, instead of taking the first path striking back, he decides differently. He breathes and realizes he is irritated, he feels attacked and exposed in front of his boss, but he is also aware that whatever comes out of his mouth can build or destroy. Therefore, he decides to go for a better outcome, one that is better for him, better for the organization and even better for Juan: “What I hear you say is that what is most important is to take care of money, I also hear you say I don’t know about finances and that I am not sensible to the importance that’s required when taking care of money, is this what you said?”

If we were in the room at that moment, we would have noticed that the energy would shift; Juan’s answer would have probably been, instead of a no –namely to keep resisting— a yes: “Yes, exactly, I don’t think you know how to take care of money and I don’t think you are considering it. And I also don’t think you are adequately prepared to understand how to prepare a marketing plan without so much risk involved.” Once more Roberto breathes deeply and answers: “Ok, I understand what you are making me see and that from your point of view the most important thing is to take care of money. That doesn’t mean I share with you that I don’t know how to take care of money.  I am doing the best I can to take care of it. This doesn’t mean either, there isn’t more to do or that my strategy is the only one that could work. I would like you to tell me more: why do you think I am not considering the money factor in my strategy? Based on what I have presented so far, where am I not prioritizing taking care of money?”

Here, the energy and the resistance start to come down. In fact, if we could see it graphically, what we would observe is that the energy would start to circulate. It is as if Roberto would have received the energy as a strike and instead of attacking back, he has given it back to Juan with self-control and serenity. Meanwhile, Juan has taken that energy and with still his needs to prove to be right, he has given it back to Roberto by saying: “Ok, yes, there are many things to explain to you about finances that you are not aware of. It is very important to me that you are clear that we must take care of money because that strategy, as it is right now, does not reflect that.”

Even though, once more Roberto feels he is being attacked, he breathes and replies: “Look Juan, I think we are aligned, we both want to take care of money. Maybe there is a better way to do it and, as I have said before, I am totally opened and I would like you to help me. I would like your collaboration in reviewing the strategy and helping me understand how, from your perspective, I could improve it. I also want to let you know I felt attacked, because I haven’t heard you say anything that contributes on how to make this strategy a better one. Conversely, I have only heard you say I am doing my work wrong. I would like us to work together on making this strategy better; I would like to learn from you and understand how to make this marketing plan be in service of the organization while also taking care of money. And I would like us to do it in a way that we can enjoy working together. What do you think?”

One more time, Roberto returned the energy to Juan with a question, but this time he has done it with the full perspective of what he feels and thinks. It is not hard to imagine, from this point on an opened dialogue would follow. This can easily become collaboration and synergy. They would of course face obstacles in their way, because without a doubt they would want once and once again to try and prove they are right. But if Roberto is capable of breathing and maintaining his center, work will flow. With this we refer to What You Resist… Persists and the powerful antidote of ceasing to resist. Taking the energy of others without loosing your balance and giving it back in a constructive and compassionate way, changes people. The most interesting thing in this example, as in all of our examples, is that it is not required for Juan to change; the only one who changed was Roberto. See you next week.

Your Plan Is Useless

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