I’m thinking of becoming a therapist.
It seems to me that the three primary skills required are the abilities to sit still, listen and look interested, all of which I’m capable of.
The idea occurred to me recently during an initial meeting with the directors of a potential client company. By employing these tactics I allowed the participants to identify the challenges their business was facing all by themselves, with minimal input from me.
When I say ‘employing these tactics’ of sitting still and listening, the condition was forced upon me somewhat as for the first half-hour I wasn’t actually able to get a word in edgewise! So passionate were the directors about their business that I felt it wrong to interrupt the natural flow of (one-way) conversation. The chair was comfy, the coffee was good, so I settled down while they ‘let it all out’.
"...for the first half-hour I wasn’t actually able to get a word in edgewise!"
What struck me most was that simply expressing their worries out loud – and there were many! – made problems seem more ‘solvable’. (Isn’t there a branch of therapy that promotes the idea that the first step on the road to recovery is to admit there’s a problem? If so, I’m getting the hang of this!)
The directors are justifiably proud of their business and their 40-year track record of high- quality work for satisfied clients. They recognise, though, that continuing ‘business as usual’ may be risky as the world around them changes, especially with respect to Building Information Modelling (BIM).
To their credit, they are now reviewing their workflow to ensure that the business has a future. But the big difference between their attitude at the start of our meeting compared with at the end is this:
They started out complaining about why the business COULDN’T change, but finished by looking forward to a bright future full of new opportunity.
At the beginning they talked long and hard about how unfair it was that they were losing work to others; as experts in their field it simply wasn’t fair that they should have to change what they do; change would mean life would be more complex and difficult; and had their staff got the skills to grapple with new technologies?
By the end of the meeting some 90 minutes later, the discussion was far more positive; indeed I’d say their attitude was transformed. Firstly, with my 40 years in the industry I was able to empathise with their issues; secondly I was able to reassure them by reference to my own and other clients’ businesses that change need not be difficult if properly planned and if supported with the appropriate expertise; thirdly – and most importantly – I was able to offer them a vision of a business running efficiently, winning new work and generating new revenue streams, perceived as a leader in their field rather than a straggler.
So the directors have changed, I believe, from being worried about how to sustain a business to being excited about the future.
Through therapy they’re happy!
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