I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.
”Senator Everett Dirksen
Up to this point we ve created a map showing how to master a crucial confrontation. It describes key principles and skills, not fixed roads laid down on an unmovable terrain. This means that the principles and skills have to be woven into a workable script on the spot, as the conversation unfolds.
This on-the-spot creativity calls for an enormous amount of flexibility. After we describe the gap, we have to diagnose what s happening. Are people failing to come through because of a motivation problem, or is it ability? Otherwise, we re likely to charge in blindly and apply the wrong prefabricated fix: I can t believe that you came to our biggest meeting of the year a full thirty minutes late. . . . Oh, your mom s funeral, huh?
That was awkward .
It gets worse . Not only do we have to work unrehearsed and on the fly, we have to be flexible enough to deal with new problems as they seem to appear out of nowhere. We re talking about problem X and problem Y emerges right there on the spot.
For instance, you re talking to a coworker about doing his fair share of the workload, and he becomes angry . You re chatting with your daughter about failing to practice the piano, and she lies to you. You re talking to an employee about missing a deadline, and he becomes insubordinate. You re talking to your unemployed husband about actively looking for work, and he tries to divert you from the problem by playing the martyr. Your head accountant clams up when you ask her why the end-of-month reports aren t ready. Then she gets angry. All these situations present you with new, emergent problems.