It’s what I wanted to say, not what I needed to say!

Their raised voices said it all. My opinions had gone quite far enough, or were no longer needed in this meeting, either way, no one seemed interested in what else I had to say. How had it come to this? This could very well become the first time in my consultancy career I was being kicked out of a meeting.

Just 30 minutes earlier, we had cordially begun the meeting by discussing the agenda items. Somewhere along the way, I felt that the repetitive nature of the deliberations was counter-productive (if you’ve dealt with government bureaucracies, you might wholeheartedly agree). I made the mistake of airing my unfiltered thoughts and a couple of minutes and raised voices later, had the entire meeting room in an uproar.

I reflected upon this first incident and soon isolated what part of the fault was my own doing. I had said what I wanted to say, not what I needed to say. I had wanted a quicker turn-around on actions that had been outstanding for looooooooong. At the time, my thought process was to state the obvious (“we are not moving fast enough”) and do what any good consultant should, provide pointers on what needs to be done, recommend who should do it etc.

After that didn’t go down well, I revised my strategy and at the next meeting (Yes, they invited me o the next meeting, surprisingly), I changed tact. I started by painting a rosy picture about our next door neighbor who was making great strides in the same sector and with fewer resources. It wasn’t long before the team was asking how we could achieve the same successes. The bait had been taken.

I then proceeded to share the strategy our neighbor had used and made precise comparisons with how the same strategy would work within our context. By the end of the meeting, they’d drafted a strategy, assigned tasks/timelines to specific handlers and allocated resources. I didn’t even get my hands dirty on this one. My job was done. I’d said what needed to be said, not what I wanted to say, and more importantly, the objective had been achieved.

As a founding partner of Trail Analytics, I make it a point to tutor our staff on the need to explain matters to a client in such a way that the client understands and responds appropriately. This is only achievable when we learn to say what we need to say, not necessarily, what we want to say.