WILY: Don't Wait Until the Grass is Long

I needed to mow last weekend, but didn't do it.  My mower is down right now - something with the self-propel system that I can't figure out - and I haven't made it to the shop yet.  

I was also hesitant to ask to borrow my father-in-law's mower.  For no good reason, mind you.  He always says "yes" and even fills it with gas before I pick it up.  

I just didn't feel like it.  It seemed like extra work to walk over there, pick up the mower, walk it back, mow, and then do the whole thing again in reverse.  

It finally rained here a little last week and the yard reached the point where it had to be cut today.  You know that point - usually in the spring when the wet days outnumber the dry - when the mower bogs down and you have to bag every couple of rows.  Or spend an entire day raking and sweeping.  The point where it takes twice the time and effort to push the mower through the grass.

It's like that with those conversations that you need to have with a stakeholder or someone on the project team.  For most of us, they take a lot of energy.  And they feel like they can be put off without any consequences.  

But, the truth is that the greater the distance between the behavior and the conversation, the more difficult the discussion becomes.  The need doesn't go away on its own, it grows thick like the grass until it reaches a point where it absolutely must be addressed.  And just like cutting an overgrown lawn, at that point the conversation is difficult to propel forward.  It bogs down, maybe stalls, and definitely leaves a mess in its wake.

Have the difficult conversations as quickly as you can without being emotional.  Seek common understanding.  Make sure you understood the other party's intent before making any assumptions.  Ask  "Did I understand you correctly when...?  or "Did you intend...?"

Then explain the impact in non-personal terms.  "If (or when) X happens, it can cause Y.  This can make it more difficult for Z." 

These conversations are also easier without words like "you", "always", and "never".  

Have the talk when you notice the need.  It may seem easier to put it off, but the grass grows long while you wait.