Go Ahead, Make My Day

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In the movie Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood has a memorable line that has taken a prominent place in the history books of memorable movie lines. After shooting four robbers of a restaurant there is one robber left standing. In the hopes of getting out alive, he takes a hostage and thinks this act will leave Clint Eastwood afraid and willing to back down.

That doesn’t happen. The Clint Eastwood character, Harry Callahan says to the robber, “Go ahead. Make my day”. He dares him to take a shot. The robber decides it is not his day and drops his gun.

We don’t have to carry a gun to make a person’s day. For example, last week I interviewed six leaders who are involved in a strategy project I’m designing. After one interview the leader said to me, “wow, I have never been listened to and understood as clearly as I have by you. You not only heard what I said, but you were able to repeat it back more clearly than I could imagine. You’ve made my day.”

As leaders, making a person’s day is without question a game changer not only for the leader but also for their team. How can you make a person’s day? Here are three strategies:

1. Listen to understand versus to respond.
The majority of the time people are not listening to understand someone but rather listening to respond. Listening to respond involves waiting for a gap in the conversation to insert statements about our experiences or perspectives. Listening to understand involves asking questions with a genuine curiosity and a sincere interest in the other persons perspective. Responding leads to separation and division while understanding leads to connection and a willingness to cooperate.

2. Use their words not mine.
Creating a sense of understanding comes when we use the specific words people use to describe their experience. I’m not suggesting parroting someone, but rather with sincerity using the specific words people use. When I use my words people feel interpreted and not heard.

For example, if someone said it was really challenging when they didn’t secure the funding necessary to complete a project they worked on for twelve months, the operative word is challenging. If in responding to the person you use the word frustrating you have moved into interpreting the person and not accurately reflecting the person’s experience.

3. Confirm my understanding.
The gift of being heard is powerful, but I don’t always get it right. To make sure my understanding is full and that the other person leaves the conversation feeling positive, I repeatedly ask if I have understood them accurately with the phrase, “this is what I heard you say. Did I get that right or is there something I’m missing?”

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:
Which of these three strategies is hardest for you? Commit to improving your skill with that strategy this week by identifying one person who would benefit most from you making their day. Take the strategy and practice using it each day for five days. At the end of this week you’ll not only have made the day of those around you, but you’ll have substantially moved the needle of your leadership effectiveness.

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