Eventually, it happens to most of us: enthusiastic new parents proudly thrust their bouncing bundle of joy under your nose anticipating oohs, ahs and heaps of compliments. Sometimes, this is a natural and easy response. Other times, not so much. Like a deer in the headlights, we stand paralyzed, groping for comments that won’t offend as we gaze down at proof incarnate that E.T. lives.
In corporate life, I have experienced similar discomfort in marketing meetings in the executive suite. Picture the paneled meeting room, the CEO (CFO, COO, insert your favorite “C” here) flipping through a carefully crafted, lovingly prepared Powerpoint®, replete with charts and graphs, presenting the Next Big Thing. As the last slide summarizes his genius, he looks expectantly out over the sea of glassy-eyed, nodding heads.
Regardless of the fact that many see his idea as the road to ruin or at least several months of wheel-spinning, no one is going to make the Career Ending Move and question the concept. No, siree, everyone knows this is his first born and you had better start cooing.
The common thread in such incidents is that they are tied to emotion. The challenge is to divest the situation of its emotional component, so you can objectively review the concept, materials or project and hopefully get the potential train wreck back on track. The best way to achieve this is to measure the project or materials against goals—whether they are the corporate mission, financial expectations or performance or compliance standards. Even if you don’t have a formal set of goals in place, you probably have some metrics against which you can evaluate. That way, the standards can be the “bad guy” when things don’t measure up. You will no longer have to wrestle with your conscience while forcing a constipated smile, declaring some innocuous rejoinder and nodding vigorously.
Conversely, with the newborn situation, don’t take any chances. Smile and declare enthusiastically, “Now that’s a baby!”
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