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Four Sides to Every Story

Written by: Brian Smith

In Objective Management, there are four sides to every story.

Being a manager in a small or medium sized business can be quite stressful at times. Your primary responsibility is probably to grow revenue, profit margins, or some other important high level metric by leveraging your experience along with your Policy and Procedures which guide your decisions. From working with thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of managers and employees, we have learned there is an opportunity for creating a more consistent work environment. This opportunity can be addressed with the proper balance of experience and structure.

Many times, the structure comes in the form of a well written (and followed) Policy and Procedure manual. Without Policy and Procedure, individuals must rely on their own organizational skills/memory to remember their assigned tasks, as well as company standards that may or may not have been established.  Day to day, we may begin to notice that our memories are not up to par as it pertains to remembering what we have completed and need to complete each day. It may also be hard, at times, to remember certain events happening.

Each of us has a different way of remembering things that applies to our own way of storing information, which is why stories are not consistent between different individuals.  When it comes to remembering that information, we fall back on our own way of “telling the story” to whomever wants to hear it.

We believe one of the first steps to successfully managing others is with an Objective Management style. This means managers need to realize there are four sides to every story:

  1. There is the side of the first participant

When an incident happens, or a manager is trying to determine what happened, there is always the point of view of the person involved. Why were the numbers low? Why was this customer upset? What happened with XYZ? The list goes on and on, but you get the point. Whoever was participating will have the side of the story.

  1. There is the side of the person telling the story

When getting the story from a third party, their point of view will inevitably be very different from the point of view of the participants’. It doesn’t matter if this person has anything to gain or lose from altering the story, and he or she might not even mean to alter what happened, but they will always describe what happened from their perspective. This perspective can only include what this person perceived and still might leave out valuable details.

  1. There is that which you believe

What you believe is very important. Unfortunately, if an employee has been given a number of chances, or has even cried wolf once or twice in the past, it will be hard to review the stories without a sense of bias. Believability can be influenced by emotions like fear or anger. It’s important to keep this in mind when reviewing others’ stories and determining what you believe.

  1. There is the truth

Ah hah! Now we’re getting somewhere. What the heck actually happened? What are the facts? This is the truth! Numbers never lie. If you’re a sales manager trying to figure out why a sales associate didn’t hit their numbers, the first three sides could be almost anything. If you have the proper key performance indicators, you can drill right down to the truth. How many calls were made? How many appointments were set? How many proposals went out? How many new prospects were put into the sales funnel? All of these metrics are unbiased, factual, objective (pick whichever word you like) and true.

Now, we concede that all four can be the same, however history tells us that stories change each time they are told or each time we hear them.  We have all played the grade school exercise where a story is told to one person and they are asked to pass it around the class, only to find that at the end of the line the story has changed, sometimes drastically.

It is the ability of a manager to listen to all the information being presented to him/her and to discern from the details the key facts that need to be pieced together to show what the issue at hand really is.  With so many things affecting today’s managers, employees, vendors, and customers, it’s no wonder the stress level in the work place is at an all-time high.  By listening and realizing there are four sides to the story, you can give yourself the information needed to resolve any issue presented in a fair and equitable manner.

Four sides to every story is part of our BizVision Management program, one tool offered by IA Business Advisors.

© Individual Advantages, LLC 2016