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Lessons in Problem Solving; David’s Rule

What follows is an excerpt from my book “Points of Productivity; Turning Corporate Pain to Gain”. A second edition comes out later this year. It tells the story of how I learned to live by David’s Rule. That being:

“Leave them feeling positive and you’ve created a friend and partner.”

A business associate of mine was the president of a very successful construction company in Virginia. His name was David and my company had recently installed software to automate his enterprise. He called me to arrange a meeting to discuss some issues that caused him concern. We met in my office for nearly an hour; he was succinct and to the point regarding how my project team had failed to totally satisfy his needs during the implementation project. All the time he was expressing his dissatisfaction, while firm, he remained calm, respectful and polite. After we reviewed his “punch list” and planned a course of action, he took fully 10 minutes to tell me about the things he did like about the system and the way our team approached the project. He acknowledged my employees by name and told me he knew things would be resolved quickly and to his satisfaction.

As we walked out, I told David that I couldn’t remember having a meeting with a dissatisfied client from which I had emerged feeling so good. I pointed out that I really appreciated hearing positive things as well as negative. My new friend David told me that he always ended negative meetings talking about positive things. He told me that it was his experience that there is good in almost any bad situation and that pointing out the positive bonded the parties together to improve relations and solve problems. I have never forgotten that lesson from that wise manager. He passed on not much later, but I think about that meeting often.

I shared that story to illustrate that even the messiest issues at an office or workplace, when handled with tact and concern for the other persons feelings, can be resolved. Even meetings where those problems are discussed needn’t be a blood bath. Both or all parties can feel like winners, as did I when David finished with an upbeat message. The willingness to approach problems in this manner … both by management and employees … is the only way I’ve seen to eliminate the need for negative office politics. The open-door policy has to become the open-dialogue policy.