When the dog’s in the hunt there’s no time for fleas, right? Isn’t it amazing the fleas we can come up with when we‘re lacking purpose? What is your purpose?
In my coaching and soft skills grooming and training I often use the story of the two children squabbling over a pumpkin. The relentless arguing eventually gets too much for their mum who sits them down in frustration and sternly asks each one what they need the pumpkin for. They divulge that the one wants the shell for a Halloween mask and the other needs the flesh for a pumpkin soup recipe at school. How easy was that? Understanding each other’s purpose helped each realize that there was no need to squabble. They could both have what they wanted, if they had allowed the other to know that.
And so it is with this thing called purpose. All too often we can get caught up in all sorts of discussions or arguments because we didn’t go to sufficient trouble to ask and establish someone’s (or our own) purpose at the outset.
Of course things are not always that simple, but I have learned that identifying and understanding the other person’s purpose early in the piece can often help short circuit the path to the outcomes being sought.
I subscribe to the notion that if I can help enough other people get what they want, I can usually get what I want and this seems to work into that notion very well.
There are so many different examples of where an early understanding of purpose can be helpful. In my coping and productivity grooming on how to maximize your time in meetings, I teach that even if you aren’t the meeting initiator or chairperson you can save time by insisting on clarifying purpose before the meeting gets underway. I have found lack of purpose is probably one of the key factors in the amount of unnecessary time people spend and waste in meetings in business today. Would you agree?
The next example is in my negotiation skills grooming where I emphasize how beneficial it is to identify and understand the other party’s purpose early on. Not always easy, but using “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” it really can help fast track results in that it helps build trust. If I can genuinely have the other party appreciate how by each understanding what the other wants, that we can perhaps help each other get it, we may already be on our way to a faster outcome. It also helps differentiate for each party which aspects of the negotiation each places more emphasis on. That can allow both to better assess the value of concessions they were considering to “give away” or better know how to navigate impasses or deadlocks when things get “hotter”. Naturally our rapport needs to be strong enough to make it “easier” for both to be willing to share that purpose early on. Building that strength of rapport is something my clients learn very well.
I have found that this concept is equally at home in numerous relationship related conversations where taking the time to establish “where the other person is coming from” is so often material in understanding their behaviour or the position they are taking, so we can better choose the more appropriate responses.
In the diplomacy arena establishing and understanding purpose is one of the most fundamental tools and approaches we use.
Of course at the philosophical end there is that HUGE question some of us wrestle with when we ask ourselves what the purpose of our own life might be….
However, starting at a practical level, why not remember to make sure at the next start of each material conversation that you clarify to know and understand the purpose of that conversation before you get into it? Sometimes it can establish that it is just to have a chat. That’s cool. However, in most other cases it will probably help focus the attention on getting an outcome. In business you will certainly be seen to be more professional by insisting on clarifying that purpose up front.
Tom Washington says
Great article which I thoroughly enjoyed. You include some very interesting points and I’ve circlulated the text amongst a group of colleagues who I’m sure will find it of equal interest.