Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Communication Problems

Since I can remember I have been attracted to philosophy and understanding the world. I have never been very good with my hands or with anything that has to do with mechanical work. I also grew up in a household in which business was never discussed and the only conversations about money were arguments between my father and mother (about who should control the finances.) Each thought the family's financial situation would be improved if they were the one in charge. The problem, obviously was that they had no money. My father worked for the Post Office and my mother hardly worked at all. When she did work as a sales clerk at Martin's Department Store she ended spending more on travel, lunches, and shopping; she quit in order just reduce the extra expenses.

I never worried about money as a child and always thought I would make a lot. My initial goal was to be a lawyer. But, after getting married and having a child at twenty-one, I had to abandon my plans for law school and try to support my family. I worked in a number of sales positions. I worked for three insurance companies, sold chemicals, burglar alarms, dating services, fuller-brush, and cemetery property. I was always a good talker and was not afraid to speak to anyone. These traits enabled me to get commission sales jobs, to survive.

Only after I started working in the consulting business for a company started by a New Yorker who had moved to Lancaster was I able to combine my interest in ideas with my need to make money. (By the way, the guy who started this company was the one who threatened to kill me as I mentioned in my last blog.)

Consulting especially marketing consulting allowed me to consider what influenced peoples' actions and how to present ideas in a powerful way. What I came to see after years of studying these questions and working with hundreds of clients was that an important element in business success, maybe the most important, was the ability to see things clearly and to express what you see in a clear and direct way.

Whenever I am confronted with a situation that requires strategic thinking or one in which I am dealing with people who are hostile to me or my ideas my first thought is to determine what is the truth that I want to express. I then consider what is the best way to communicate this truth. Oftentimes what happens is that I don't express my thought or idea in the most diplomatic or gentle way. I then need to scramble to explain myself, to dig myself out of the hole I have created by my directness. It helps me to have a partner in these moments who knows me, who can say "what Ira meant by that was" and then soften my words, or express them so that they will be more easily accepted.

The reason I am writing this blog is that I just was eliminated from a deal that I had been working on for fifteen months and invested thousands of dollars. My partner and I received the following e-mail ending the relationship:

This is a final notice that we will not be moving forward with our joint venture. After N. and Ira spoke in private I questioned her to find out what was discussed and learned that Ira was completely out of line and disrespectful to me and the organization. There is no possible way that I can work with Ira on a team especially now that I do not trust him at all. Completely unprofessional and for that reason, we are finished working with him. If you have any questions about what was said, feel free to direct them to Ira.



Based on this e-mail my partner believes I cost us the deal and he wants to end our partnership. In my mind I said nothing in the meeting to justify this type of reaction. What I know is that I don't disrespect B. or his organization and that my intent was only to communicate with N my concerns about B's lack of experience. I also stated that since their business had declined fifty percent they needed this deal to help secure their future.

These types of miscommunications and overreactions happen all the time in business, in families, and in international relations. It is unfortunate that oftentimes good relationships are ruined because of minor issues. However I need to look at this in the right way. First of all I can't get too upset with myself, my partner, or the executives in this company. Secondly I need to recognize that after forty years of trying to be a better communicator I still have a lot to learn. I am not going to give up.

1 comment:

  1. Knowing you personally, this person obviously was not a true partner. I feel some people are just not willing to have a truly open conversation, and I know when you speak it is always in the spirit of helping those in which you are conversing with. I hope the parties in which you are talking about read this post. J