Library Fines and Life Lessons

Library Fines and Life Lessons

It would be easy to step in and sort everything for them but its not just the learning about the simple admin its a process which teaches long lasting life lessons.

Yesterday morning small daughter and me are sitting on opposing sides of the kitchen table, this table has shared many a heated debate, many a tear and carries a catalogue of experiences in its grains.

The agenda item is a red letter bearing witness to a huge library fine, escalating as each moment ticks by.

Tackle the difficult stuff

Forcing small daughter to face this and do something about it, rather than hoping it might magically disappear or that I will sort it out is step number one.

How often do we face a similar situation, a challenging phone call, a difficult conversation, the truth is we waste a huge amount of energy dreading dealing with the situation, hoping it will go away or that someone else will pick it up, wouldn’t it be so much easier and so much more satisfying and arguably cheaper to tackle the challenge as soon as it lands on our desk or kitchen table.

How does it look from the other side?

Agreeing that today is the day the letter is tackled we discussed the strategy for dealing with it, step number two and this is where I’m drawn to reflect on the parallels with many situations, which we have to deal with in business

This is classic negotiation.

Looking at small daughter I can see a rage as red as the letter itself but this isn’t going to help, anger versus anger is never pretty in its outcome.

So I guided her by initially explaining to her why the library fine is in place, its not just to annoy you, its to make sure that all the books can be shared amongst students and discourage individuals from hogging them for long periods of time. Hmmm there’s one grudging notch down in the rage, at least towards the library.

So as a starter for a challenging business discussion start off by trying to understand why the other person is taking their stance, more often than not there is a rational explanation which, with a bit of emotional intelligence we can get to even when its not aligned to our standpoint.

The war zone can be avoided from the outset.

Now …how to tackle the situation…start by explaining to the red letter sender that you are really sorry and that you understand why they need to send the letter but you just are confused by how the fine has come to be so large.

Try to demonstrate that you see it from their point of view. This isn’t our default setting when negotiating is it? It usually looks more like

 What do I want out of this discussion and what will be the outcome that means that I have won.

This might sound like basic learning to some of you out there, but I don’t think you would be surprised at how often I have witnessed through my business career people at pretty senior levels not putting this basic learning into practice. I hold my hand up I’ve done it myself.

But on balance I like to think, that as I have negotiated my way through many business transactions I have found routes, which are potentially a compromise of my ideal position but have actually led to longer lasting relationships built around mutual understanding and ultimately alignment of long term purpose.

So I encouraged small daughter to put it crudely, to wind her neck in and try to find a route which, wouldn’t make the fine go away but might significantly reduce it. The library gets their books back, costs of admin are covered and you don’t pay a heap of legal costs.

Unsurprisingly following this course of action, albeit through gritted teeth and much eye rolling, the result is just that.

Hopefully she will take this strategy into her career and her personal life.

Perhaps the later is more challenging, there then followed a discussion about how bad my “kitchen behaviour” is, an un-rinsed coffee cup, an un-emptied cafetiere and a stray tea bag bear witness to this mortal crime, hmm I decided to leave this one for another morning considering it to be an expression of her need to win somewhere, so I suggested we pick it up when we’ve each compiled a list of our top “how difficult you are to live with” items and returned to my laptop and the cherished kitchen table.