Sunday, October 6, 2013

Take a detour

I recently wrote a column for the Baltimore OUTloud newspaper about automatic behavior, the rut it can create, and how to break out by trying something new. Click here to read the column.... 

Recently, I was reminded about the connection between this topic and being able to tap into creativity to solve problems.

A few weeks ago, I was working with a gentlemen who was trying to manage a business relationship with a consultant who was threatening to undermine my client's efforts because of feeling under appreciated, because of not "feeling enough love" coming from my client. So, we brainstormed on strategies and tactics for managing a difficult business relationship.

At one point, I said, "When this guy gives you a somewhat helpful suggestion or tip, be sure to send him a thank-you card, perhaps a bottle of wine with it. Thank-you cards tend to give people warm fuzzies and help them to feel very appreciated."

It was at this point that my client slapped his own forehead in disbelief. He said, "I can't believe I didn't think of that. That's exactly how I established the strong business relationship in the first place, by sending thank-you cards and small tokens of appreciation." My client was unnerved as to why the solution had eluded him given that he'd done that in the past.

I reminded him that by allowing the consultant's bad behavior to kick up resentment and other hard feelings, my client had put himself into a negative space that blocked not only his creativity but also access to things he already knew! Instead of focusing on criticizing the consultant, my client needed to get into a relaxed, playful, problem-solving mood. The consultant's OK, I'm OK...let me just figure out a creative way around this!

The best way I know of being able to slow down, recognize what's going on, and shift gears like that is to make a steady practice of mindfulness. Click here for tips sheets about practicing mindfulness.



  1. I wonder if your client that you were working with didn't have some trigger from his client? That he maybe was pushing back from a certain kind of neediness that brought up bad feelings from a past relationship or if he has the type of personality that loves perusing and chasing people but hates the work that maintaining relationships involve?

    I think some of us are really good at wooing people and perhaps less good at keeping up that level of appreciation of others.

    I am going to have to think about this a bit as someone who might be a bit better at the wooing than the maintaining. It makes for a great salesperson but not necessarily the best manager. The long haul has its benefits.

  2. Thanks for your note, Opti. First, I think that anyone in business above an entry-level position needs to build skills in "relationship management" and take the issue very seriously. Sales people who fail to do so are stuck doing cold calls and other grunt work; those who excel at relationship management become account managers for the largest, most important customers. That's a simplistic example, but hopefully you know what I mean.

    Second, anything that can be done to reduce the effect of the trigger or its resulting emotional state is "goodness." :-) My particular approach is in slowing down the physical and emotional reaction, and depersonalizing the interpretation of what happened, which would be a common approach for a Life Coach. Others prefer a more analytical, insight-oriented approach. Blending the approaches can be effective, too. Anything that can reduce the effect of the trigger over time.