Picture this (yes, I’m stealing this technique from Sophia on Golden Girls) – the place is a conference room, the year is 2010, and a sales support group and marketing group are battling over who will own the sales communications. Both sides present the reason why they should own the project, and verbally demean the capabilities of the other team with nice corporate words like – “I think the marketing team means well, but they’ve never written a sales communication that I know of and I don’t think we have time for a learning curve, do you?”
I think the economy is creating more internal competition. We’re all backed up in financial corners, growling at anybody that comes near our food, or home, or job. Clients are telling me about internal colleagues that are rabidly grabbing at their projects and assignments. Too few bones, too many dogs. We’re all fighting for a place in the world right now.
So, how do you acknowledge the need to battle without reducing yourself to an Alexis and Krstyle catfight? Guy Kawasaki (also the creator of Holy Kaw and Alltop) shares an approach, in Chapter 13 of his book “Selling a Dream” (still one of the best books in the market on selling and evangelism) that I find brilliant. His suggestion is to use mental Aikido.
He explains that Aikido is a Japanese martial art that involves deflecting an opponent’s force and turning it back against him–his will becomes part of your will. In contrast, karate involves meeting force with force by blocking blows and counterattacking–his will and your will confront each other. If you can’t ignore an opponent, use the principles of aikido, not karate, to defeat it.
This means acknowledging the soundness of the enemy’s cause and then turning this concession into selling points for your cause. It does not mean directly confronting or denying your enemy.
Guy goes on to reiterate a story shared by Mrs. Jessie Cartright in 1960. She was the home economist of the Norge Division of the Borg-Warner Corporation. She was an evangelist for better living for American women. Here, with a story from the Bible, she explains how to use Aikido:
St. Paul was a hunted man, and Christianity was the underdog religion. He never knew if he was going to be stoned to death or what was going to happen when he gathered people together for a talk on the outskirts of a city.
He went to Athens and stood on a little hill outside of town. He said, “Fellow Athenians, it’s nice to be here. You have a beautiful city. I’ve been around your city today. I’ve seen your million-dollar high school and your new railroad stations. I’ve seen all the sights, and I find it a wonderful city: beautiful parks, fine, outstanding-looking citizens, and there is something that appeals to me. I find that you are a very religious people. Every place that I went I saw statues of your gods and goddesses.”
He didn’t say, “I saw statues of your stinking, lousy Roman heathen idols.”
He said, “I saw statues of your god and goddesses. In my tour around the city I finally came to a statue that had an inscription at the bottom that said, ‘to the unknown god.’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s my god, so I’d like to talk about him, if you don’t mind, for a few minutes today.”
Things are tough right now, and that’s the reality. If you have an opponent internally or externally, try Aikido. Offer reasonable responses and promote your cause without a negative tone. Show respect for another perspective, and don’t invalidate the past. You might just get the change your need; at a minimum, you’ll get the respect of those around you!
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