I’m going to stop short of claiming Larry-isms because not all of these are my creation. Still, here is a sampling of my favorite workplace expressions for when some urgent needs arise. I’ll definitely keep updating this as I hear more and also get some contributions from readers.
1. To stop a meeting from going overtime: ….so, in the (ten) minutes we have left, what would we like to accomplish?
I’m absolutely taking ownership of this one. Great combination of diplomacy, results orientation and firmness. Says it all in a short sentence. Try it and watch the energy change in the room; the urgency amps up, partly fueled by a healthy dose of panic.
2. A coaching tool to prioritize work: Time, scope and resources.
This one’s not mine but I have totally stolen it and used it everywhere. It’s a great mental paradigm for yourself and an even better tool to coach your direct report. Trying to figure out how to be more productive and better prioritized? Find efficiencies in time, scope and resources:
Time. Assess the impact of completing a task later. It’s funny how stories come back to you. A former direct report recently recalled how she picked this up from the booming voice of my less-refined former self coming out of my office when paid a visit from a peer: “You say you need this right away???!? What happens if you don’t get this until the end of day?? (pause). Exactly. Nothing. You’ll get this by end of day. Thank you.” I’m all zen now so I manage these situations much better but the point is still the same. Everyone wants everything ASAP to keep their to-do list clear, but only few things are truly required ASAP. With a little polite digging you can free up some extra time and get the ‘real’ deadline.
Scope. You’ll often be asked for analysis and on a protracted timeline as business needs arise. Management will typically ask for the world if they can get it, but where possible you can consider negotiating a reduced scope of work within the same timeline. Offer the analysis in stages: top line or partial work quickly and depending on what it shows you can dig more later. Often works. Moreover, odds of you having to dig deeper are probably not much more than 50-50.
Resources. This is where your network and knowledge of the org come into play. You’d be surprised how many times you are asked for information or analysis that is already available elsewhere, even if in slightly different form. Know what systems, tools, people and departments can contribute to your project so that you don’t waste time starting from scratch.
3. To get someone off the sidelines: I need your leadership.
“Leadership” is a more potent word than “help” because it plays hard to the ego. You are not just appealing for generalized manpower but for the skills of influence and reason that are unique to this particular person. You are not likely to be turned down by telling someone that only their greatness can move the business forward. Look your target in the eye and speak with conviction in a 1:1 setting to enroll someone who is not otherwise engaged. Also useful when you grease the rails in advance of a meeting as a great prep (and pep!) talk to ensure you get the outcome you want thanks to the right contributions from the right people.
4. To create energy around a new path forward: There is what ‘is’…and what ‘we can cause’.
This is an awesome, verbal punch in the face to encourage some unconventional thinking. Sometimes, in corporations, we forget that we are not just victims of market forces, but also creators thereof. This phrasewill energize a team to be masters of their own destiny. Quite empowering. (This is the 2014 version of “current thinking = current results”, which is very ‘2002’.)
5. To convince your manager to take a calculated risk: Do we want to lead or follow?
I’ll toss this one out here now in a condensed version although I feel I’ll need to have a separate post on assessing and managing risk of success in marketing activity.
For now I’ll just acknowledge that even some of the better leaders do not readily accept risk when breaking new marketing ground. This is true more for established brands or companies that are not in the tech sector. Lots of lip service to risk taking, not as much action. Often times, the idea is killed by the question, “what’s the ROI on this program?” Doesn’t take a genius to ask this question but I’m finding it does take a genius to understand that if such a program has never been attempted, your guess would as good as anyone else’s. Moreover, we can type anything we want into this little spreadsheet to predict results. So, yes, it’s kind of a dumb question. But, you can’t point that out.
If you want to try a completely new marketing program, ensure you mitigate as much risk as possible. I typically do this by creating a break-even analysis. Figure out the lift you’d need to pay for the program and bring this to the table with your gut feeling relative to break-even being achievable. Sell it that way, pointing out that you can’t pinpoint the upside but you don’t expect to lose money. Provide consumer-based qualitative or quantitative backup where possible. THEN, if your boss has cold feet for reasons that seem to be due to risk, bust out that phrase. Without sounding passive-aggressive (so critical), assert that there are two paths: wait for someone else to prove it out and then follow it to market or be seen as leaders and innovators. Framing the issue that way can often loosen the stalemate by again, appealing to ego.
6. To snap someone into focus and make them accountable for their actions and decisions: You have a choice…
While this doesn’t work on everyone, it’s an immensely powerful phrase that honestly should not be used more than once or twice a year. Total. You can dilute the effect with overuse.
Use this phrase to tee up any number of important decisions or to reframe critical situations as decisions so that all stakeholders understand they have a part in the outcome. There are subsets of people out there who think the world is impacting them when we all know that in reality it’s just the opposite. Everything that happens to you is what you have caused. Some people are not quite dialed into that paradigm. This phrase helps.
I have had the most success with this as a part of my coaching toolbox for friends who have needed relationship advice. (And, I’m just the guy…since those who can’t do, teach.) One of my buddies was having problems with his girlfriend who he felt wouldn’t accept what he told her at face value and would always in his mind find some other interpretation for what he was saying. Promising to be open, honest and direct didn’t help. He used my phrase, which I’m told left her speechless and changed the dynamic of their relationship for the good. “(Insert name here), when I tell you X and mean it exactly as I say it, you have a choice. You can choose to believe exactly what I am telling you or you can choose to believe something else. I just want you to think before you choose what to believe. Think about what your choice means about the trust in our relationship and how our way of communicating will impact how we relate to reach other, etc. etc. etc.” When used at the right time and in a calm moment: powerful. Thought inducing. Game changing. Completely and poignantly shifts the attention to and onus on the other person to consider their role and impact. Love it, but you could probably only use it once with any given person in your lifetime.
I’ll repost as I add to this list. I got more!