Now or Later?

By Pamela A. Scott

Now-or-LaterIt was a painful conversation to witness. I was meeting with Jennifer and Patrick. They are partners in a small professional service firm. We were discussing things that the business needed and trying to prioritize those needs.

Patrick was quite adamant that the accounting system needed to be overhauled. Now!

Jennifer was concerned that the firm needed to be developing its junior staff. Then she started thinking about more concerns.

“In addition to accounting and training, I’ve been concerned that we may be behind on our policies and procedures manuals,” Jennifer said.

Then she added: “What about that new product line we’ve planned? And then there’s . . .”

Patrick blew up. “You’re doing it again. You’re throwing more issues on the table than we can possibly deal with. We agreed to focus on one. And it’s the accounting system. And it needs to be done NOW.”

That’s when I had to step in.

Patrick is one of those folks who can focus intensely on one topic and deal with it right away. He wants closure. Jennifer is one of those folks who needs to explore lots of options before she decides anything.

What do you do when you find yourself in their situation?

You first, before you even start the conversation, state what outcome you want from the discussion.

Then you set a timeframe for the discussion. Patrick could do it in 2 minutes. Jennifer might want to take 2 hours. You agree on a compromise that gives Jennifer her “and another thing” time. And you agree that you will make a decision at the end of that compromise time.

It’s not perfect but Jennifer gets to do her thing and Patrick knows he will get a decision when they’re done.

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