I happened to overhear this said in a workplace I taught at recently, as we tackled one of their challenges in a rigorous series of small group break-out sessions:
“Easy for you to say.”
It’s a disheartening attitude that can crop up in the best of workplaces. That, or its variant, “Easy for them to say” could be a response I’d get from others as manager too, staff and peers alike, whether it was said to me directly, with a sigh and doubtful shake of the head, or muttered under someone’s breath as they slumped their shoulders and started to walk away, thinking the conversation was over.
It wasn’t over. I might give them a bit of a respite in that particular moment, feeling it best that we both had a cleansing break to think about what we had already discussed, and I’d say so as reassuringly as possible, for to be sure, the conversation was not over. We would schedule our follow-up conversation right there and then.
Doubt couldn’t secure a foothold in our workplace. Good, inquisitive questioning, yes, but disheartened doubt? No way.
We Desired Shift, and we Chose Change
The conversation would have started around our defining an issue —take your pick, virtually any issue might apply. It would have then involved brainstorming possible scenarios for resolution, and finally, deciding on the likeliest possibility that would give us a more successful probability: We were looking for some shift, and we were choosing our change.
Hopefully we were doing it early enough in our response to whatever the less-than-optimal scenario was at the time, so that the change we chose was;
- proactive (primarily of our design and our discretion) and
- not reactive (imposed on us by someone else, because we had waited too long to take action ourselves).
Reactive situations are always tougher, yet both can be fertile ground for doubt; even good change can be challenging, for often, we can’t naturally trust in yet unseen outcomes.
The “someone else” could be a higher-level executive, owner, or board of directors. They say they step in when we take too long to handle the business ourselves, and much as we hate to admit it, nine times out of ten, that’s a fairly accurate assessment.
In those times, “Easy for you to say” was not a statement directed at me, but one I would hear people say to each other, or I would see in those shadows of doubt I could read in their faces. If I was their manager, that didn’t sit well with me either, and I had to seek better engagement for all of us kukupa‘u (literally, “with great enthusiasm”).
We Called on our Values
A large part of my coaching to managers when I facilitated these Shift Sessions, as we called them, was that we had to leave the room KĀKOU, “all in” and ready to proceed together in our separate areas of operation. We had to be LŌKAHI, unified and harmonious in our intentions and in our actions, so that in turn, our staff would trust in us as a well-functioning management team and not only as individual leaders (or renegades).
You need a whole lot of trust and belief when you are looking for shift and introducing change. People generally don’t resist change in itself, they resist being changed, particularly by others they have little confidence in.
“Get my drift?” As a manager, you have to!
“Easy for you to say” can mean a bunch of different things. Here are just three examples (for there are more):
1. It can mean, “This will be a piece of cake for you in your situation and position, but it will be much more challenging for me. Fasten your seat belts, for we’re in for a rough ride.”
2. It can mean, “Yes, I’m agreeing to this because we went through the decision process together and I know that’s the expectation I have to fulfill, but I still don’t buy in completely. Fasten your seat belts, for we’re in for a rough ride.”
3. It can mean, “Others will do this for you (or for your position in the organization), but not for me (and not in mine). Fasten your seat belts, for we’re in for a rough ride.”
That’s why I said the conversation was never over for me: I knew that second sentence was always part of the kaona (hidden meaning and implication) of each one. Unless we addressed the first part of each possible meaning to “Easy for you to say,” the second part of “Fasten your seat belts, for we’re in for a rough ride” would certainly happen.
Savvy managers also know there is an element of truth to the probability that accepting handed-down decisions IS a little easier for them. Patrick Lencioni explains it well in this passage:
“What executives believe are small disconnects between them and their peers actually look like major rifts to people deeper in the organization. And when those people deeper in the organization try to resolve the differences among themselves, they often become engaged in bloody and time-consuming battles, with no possibility for resolution… When an executive decides not to confront a peer about a potential disagreement, he or she is dooming employees to waste time, money, and emotional energy dealing with unsolvable issues. This causes the best employees to start looking for jobs in less dysfunctional organizations, and it creates an environment of disillusionment, distrust, and exhaustion for those who stay.”
—Patrick Lencioni, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
The values of KULEANA and HO‘OHANOHANO would often prove helpful in these cases too: KULEANA to help us recognize our own ownership challenges with assuming personal responsibility for change, and HO‘OHANOHANO as a reminder of the demeanor required of us as professionals. Said another way, a valid response to “Easy for you to say,” when tactful and sincerely helpful, is “What instead, would be easy for you to say, and equally or more effective?” You can then continue the conversation that will help that person secure their small, but momentum-building win.
Over to you….
Why else do you suppose it is important that you find the Doubting Thomas where you work, or in any situation where you want to achieve shift? How can you get them to be a Thomas the Believer?
How would you respond to any or all of those three possibilities above, whether you are managing a team, or willing to engage in peer-to-peer coaching? Might it be different in a situation with your friends, or within your family?
In my last post, I shared the 7 Steps for Resolving Customer Complaints. There is one step in particular, where you’ll want to watch for doubt as a highly effective problem-solver: Which do you think it is, and how can you be more proactive?
Doubting Thomas is a term that is used to describe someone who will refuse to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence; a skeptic.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
The term is based on the Biblical account of Thomas the Apostle, who doubted the resurrection of Jesus and demanded to feel Jesus’ wounds before being convinced (John 20:24-29) … After seeing Jesus alive and being offered the opportunity to touch his wounds — according to the author of the Gospel of John — Thomas professed his faith in Jesus; on this account he is also called Thomas the Believer.
Archive Aloha with related reading:
- On ‘good questioning’ and managing well: Managing: Learn how to ask “Why?”
- On Hō‘imi and Value-Verbing: Palena ‘ole Positivity is Hō‘imi— look for it
- “Tell me more.” is another variation of Speak up, I’m listening.
For more reading paths, go to New Here? or click on the tags found in the footer.