Stop. Collaborate and Listen…

“Creating competition between group members is NOT the route to high performance; fostering collaboration is.”
James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Authors of “Seven Lessons for Leading the Voyage to the Future”

When Muhammad Ali was the world’s heavyweight boxing champion, he was flying across the country to get to his next round of fighting. Just before the plane took off, the flight attendant checked to see if people had their seat belts fastened. Every passenger did except for Ali.

“Mr. Ali,” she said, “you have to buckle your seat belt.” The brash heavyweight champion said, “Superman doesn’t need a seat belt.”

Without missing a beat, the flight attendant countered, “Superman doesn’t need to take a plane, either.”

Obviously she was skilled in the art of ENGAGEMENT … of getting people to do what she wanted them to do. And that is the 8th of the 12 keys in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program.

If you want to increase your effectiveness with other people, I suggest the following:

1. Realize that it is possible to get more cooperation from people than you’re already getting.

Perhaps you’ve told yourself that nothing will ever get certain people at work or at home to cooperate. You’ve been stuck in the belief that some people are just plain impossible. And you’ve spent weeks wondering what , if anything, will get your boss, coworkers, customers, or even your husband, wife, or kids to cooperate with you.

I used to feel that way and I got sick of it. So I spent weeks, months, and years poring through the research on persuasion, teamwork, and cooperation. I wanted to find out what really works when it comes to working with other people. And I’m so glad to say I found some answers. And so did Joanne Kaczmarek, a Human Resource Manager at Worldwide Distributors. She wrote, “I attended your ‘Journey To The Extraordinary’ program a few weeks ago and had instant success as a result of your program. My teenage children had friends over and were out playing in the rain. They had a blast. But with the fun came wet clothing, grass clippings in the house, and lots of wet towels.”

“The next morning, prior to leaving the house, I left them a note, writing down all the clean-up chores they needed to do. As I read the note, I noticed that it was negative. I erased the message and wrote, ‘I’ll be home about noon. I had a good time with your friends last night. I hope you enjoyed it also. With the fun comes clean up. Clean up needs to be done today.”

“I came home and the house was vacuumed, the food and beverage items were put away, the garbage was taken out, and the recycling was done. It was wonderful!!!”

As Joanne concluded, “If it wasn’t for what I learned at your ‘Journey To The Extraordinary’ program, I would have left my original message. I would have also returned home with nothing accomplished. Thank you for sharing your research with others and showing us how to bring out the best in others.”

Joanne is right. There are ways you can motivate others to give their full and willing cooperation. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an executive, a manager, a team leader, an employee, or a parent, you’ve got to work with other people.

The fact is … you need to believe it is possible to get more cooperation from others than you’re already getting. And then as an Emotionally Intelligent person, you need to use the simple three-step XYZ communication technique to more fully engage someone’s cooperation. Let’s walk through it using the example of a husband who’s always late.

2. Use the three-step XYZ communication technique.

The X factor: The communication begins with a simple description of what’s going on. The wife might say, “When you are late…” There’s no judging, name-calling or labeling; just a concrete description of his action.

And there’s no guessing of hidden intentions or motives, such as “When you don’t even care enough to show up on time.” There is no way you can know for sure if the other person doesn’t care and presuming that will only makes things worse.

The Y factor: Once you’ve described the situation, tell the other person how you feel … about the situation or his/her behavior. Your statement will probably begin with the words, “I feel” and will aim for clarity and emotional restraint.

In our example, the wife might continue by saying, “I feel frustrated.” Notice, there is no blame, no attack and no comments such as “You MAKE me feel.” Other people can’t MAKE you feel anything, so all you can do is give an honest explanation of your own emotions.

If you like, you could offer a bit more detail about your feelings. The wife could say, “When you’re late, I feel frustrated because it seems to say to me that my time is not really important to you.” Notice again, the wife is not preaching to or putting down her husband. She is simply sharing her interpretation of his behavior … that it SEEMS to communicate my time isn’t important. She is open to feedback but wants her husband to understand what is happening to her emotionally.

The Z factor: The third step in this communication strategy is to ask for what you need. The wife might say, “Please try to be on time or call and let me know when you’ll be here.” Instead of focusing on past actions he can’t change, she’s telling him what she’d like him to do differently next time.

Then put the ball in the other person’s court. The wife might ask, “Would you be willing to do that for me?” There is no demanding and no ultimatums. There is no taking for granted … just asking for consideration and cooperation.

If and when he agrees, they have a “contract.” She thanks him and recognizes his every effort he makes to keep his word.

It’s a process that may seem overly simplistic, but it works. And it works in almost any personal or professional situation. When you need to engage someone’s cooperation, you need to do more than merely communicate. You need to communicate effectively.

That’s what Ralph had to learn. He had been driving down a rural highway for several hours when he stopped in a small town to buy gas. He spotted several older men seated just outside the garage of the gas station.

“Hey there,” Ralph said, eager for a bit of conversation before he got back on the road. The men glanced at Ralph and nodded.

“Sure is hot today,” Ralph said. The men nodded again.

“On my way to Fairfield. Haven’t driven through these parts in quite some time.” The men looked at Ralph.

“You fellas sure are quiet,” Ralph said. “Is there some kind of law against speaking in this town?”

“No laws like that here,” one of the men explained. “But we have an ‘understanding’ that we don’t speak unless we can improve upon the silence.”


Where do you need the most improvement? In the X, Y, or Z factor?