Last week, I met with a client who is rightly concerned that people in her company view her unit as a roadblock. Divisions have to get clearance from her group before they can proceed on their projects.
As we talked through her concerns, we identified a simple, but significant theme. People inside and outside her unit often talk about their work in negative phrases: You can’t go to the next step until you do X. We can’t approve you because you haven’t done Y. And really, does anybody want to be known as The Red Tape?
Together, we decided to share their stories as The Problem Solvers. Give them capes and they’re practically superheroes. Their job is the same as ever, but the narrative is completely different: We helped you do X, so your project finished on time and under budget. As soon as we help you solve Y, you’ll be on your way! Problem. Solvers.
I’m oversimplifying it, I know, but I am always amazed at how quickly you can turn around a conversation by reversing all the negatives. My first step in editing anything—even before I decode the corporate/science/engineering jargon—is to turn negatives into positives.
We haven’t reached our goals becomes We are working toward our goals. In a media interview, I don’t know becomes I’ll check on it and get back to you. It can mean the difference between aspiration and defeat, between opening a portal to conversation or closing it.