Abe Wagner, of Abe Wagner & Associates, Inc. is in the studio during this “National Advisory Showcase” segment to talk about how to resolve conflict and be an effective communicator.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. Texasbusinessradio.com is the website. 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call-in line. 24 hours, so it means call in now, call in later, call in at 3:00 in the morning. I really don’t have an opinion on it, we’re gonna get the experts in here to get those questions answered.
I’m your host Matt Register, Jay Curry’s normally sitting over there in the co-host chair. I think he ditched us, he’s gonna be back here shortly.
In the meantime, we are at a point in our show that we like to call the National Advisor Showcase. We had a lot of people coming into Texas, really smart guys, to talk to CEO’s about growing their business, about improving their business, we’d love to have those guys swing by the studio and pick their brain a little bit. This is one of those segments.
We have Abe Wagner, is here from Denver, Colorado. Abe is a leadership guy, he is a communications guy, he’s the guy that comes in and talks to CEO’s and leadership teams about leading their companies more effectively. Abe, welcome to the show, sir.
Abe Wagner: Thank you, nice to be here.
Matt Register: So, talk to me a little bit about what it is you’re here doing. You’re talking to CEO’s, and you’re talking leadership, right?
Abe Wagner: Yeah, this particular group of CEO’s and a wonderful organization called Vistage, is wanting me to help them with conflict resolution.
Matt Register: Okay.
Abe Wagner: So I’m here doing a three hour session with them, lots of sharing of ideas on how to resolve conflict in effective ways.
Matt Register: Well, because people can mess this up, right? It gets messed up all the time. You have a conflict within your organization, that is a leadership test for that leader on how he’s going to handle that, correct?
Abe Wagner: Yes, yes, yes. Conflict does not necessarily have to be negative. In fact, if you’re spending a lot of time with people and you never have conflict, I question how much you trust one another. So I think the basics of being an effective communicator, is to develop a rapport with the people, so that you trust one another, and then you’re much more likely to be straight with one another and handle conflict in an effective way.
Matt Register: Well, because anytime anybody has differing opinions within your team or within your organization, that is a form of conflict, right?
Abe Wagner: Can be, sure.
Matt Register: There’s a way to handle it.
Abe Wagner: Absolutely.
Matt Register: And there’s a way not to handle it-
Abe Wagner: Sure.
Matt Register: I mean, and you know, if it’s not handled effectively, then that erodes trust, that erodes a lot of things, and is a negative driver for the organization, correct?
Abe Wagner: Right. That’s right.
Matt Register: What are you saying to these guys to help them do that effectively and not mess it up? Because it’s something that … It’s bad for the organization, and it’s bad for the bottom line, when you’re not working together effectively as a team, correct?
Abe Wagner: Absolutely. Key issue in conflict is to be a decent leader … I’m sorry, decent listener. The big problem is if you present your point of view, I often counter with my point of view, and you counter with yours and I counter with mine, and we get nowhere. Now what I teach people to do is to get into each other’s map of the world, the way they think about things.
So, I teach skills on how to be a good listener. What happens when I do that, is I’m sending a message to the person, number one, you’re important. Number two, I’m collecting data, and number three, if I have a point of view that’s different than yours, and I really sincerely listen to you, and communicate that I’m hearing you and understand, you’re much more likely to listen to me.
So there are three really great things come out of it. Number one, I communicate that I care, number two, I collect data, and number three, I have a better chance of getting listened to myself.
Matt Register: Well, and even if you end up making a decision as a leader that is contrary to one of the members, if they were listened to, that has … I mean, that sends the message that, “We may have not gone your way, but we heard you. We listened, we took it all into account, we ended up choosing something else.”
Abe Wagner: That’s right.
Matt Register: That’s a very different message from, “Terrible idea, we’re going somewhere else,” right?
Abe Wagner: You said it in a very good way, “I’ve taken into account what you’ve said,” and that’s really important. All of that says, “You’re important,” and really helps immensely. Then when you’re in a conflict, and you need to confront people, the key issue is to know what’s your purpose in confronting somebody, and mine’s a goal-striving mechanism.
If I know my purpose, I’m more likely to say the right thing. Then learning how to set the stage before you confront somebody in a diplomatic way. People have been setting the stage all their life. You were a little kid, you wanted a cookie from your mother, only four years old, you had ways of setting the stage. You told her she makes good cookies, you helped her, you were a good boy. So, there are ways of setting the stage to get somebody to listen to you.
Let me give you one fast example. Dale Carnegie came up with a great technique, and I have about 15, but one of his was, “Presume people have virtuous motives.” So I might say to you, “You know man, I know you meant well when you made that decision, you wanna do what’s best for the department. I just wish you had asked my opinion first.”
So the point is, when I set the stage, I invite people to listen, and then I do it in such a way that people don’t feel hurt, or they don’t get defensive. That’s key in conflict resolution and key in dealing with people.
Matt Register: And key in leadership. We were talking during the break about the role communication plays in leadership. You know, leadership in large part is a communication problem, right?
Abe Wagner: Absolutely. Absolutely, it is a communication problem. One of the key things in building leadership, a question you asked me about before, and in building rapport, is that people need three types of attention. In transactional analysis, which is a field I’m interested in, we call it strokes. So people need to know that you appreciate what they do, and I find … This isn’t your worldwide, but lots of men do not give compliments to one another.
Matt Register: Right.
Abe Wagner: Women tend to do that. So, one, sincere compliments, that says, “I appreciate what you do, you did a nice job on that, I like the way you handled that customer.” Number two, I need to let you know I care about you as a person. “Heard your wife wasn’t feeling well, Happy Birthday to you, let’s go to lunch. Hey, I’d like to ask your opinion about something. Sure I have time for you.” So I let you know I care about you, I appreciate what you’re doing. Now when I have to care-front you, and I know how to do that, we really develop a very nice rapport with one another.
Matt Register: Well, and there’s a level of trust there-
Abe Wagner: Absolutely.
Matt Register: That wasn’t there to begin with. You know, this is something that is done poorly very often, probably more than it’s done well. What are the … How do guys mess this up? Right? I mean, how do leaders come in and make mess of their organizations?
Abe Wagner: I don’t have a fast answer for that, I would say number one, one of the big mistakes we make when we go into an organization, is we start making changes before we have rapport with people.
Matt Register: Okay.
Abe Wagner: That’s a very big issue. Or I get promoted to a managerial position, or I get hired in, and I kind of start making changes right away, before I develop rapport with people, by the kinds of strokes I was talking about before.
So, people don’t trust me, they don’t feel good about me. Here you are, you’ve been here for two weeks, and you’re telling me all this stuff you do wrong, I’ve been in this thing for 15 years, and this guy comes … That’s one of the biggest mistakes they make when they come new into an organization or get promoted.
Matt Register: Well, it’s certainly something that can have a bigger impact than a lot of other things within an organization. Where do you start … Say you’re coming in as a brand new leader into an organization, what if you don’t have time to establish the trust? We were talking quickly during the break about some of the turnaround work we’ve done.
You don’t have time. You’re coming in, everything’s on fire, you have to start solving a problem, how do you do that in that type of environment?
Abe Wagner: Well, you know, I’m not an expert in that, you are. But I would say to you, the first thing I would do under those circumstances, is I would call in my staff, I would have a … I would let them know exactly what I’m gonna do, and why I’m going to do it. “I wish I had more time to find out where you guys were, I don’t, but once we get this straightened out, I’m going to really know what you think, and how to do things. I’m going to consult you as much as I can in this rapid process.”
Matt Register: Interesting. Well there’s a book involved here, Say It Straight Or You’ll Show It Crooked, correct?
Abe Wagner: That’s right, you can get it through Amazon.
Matt Register: Amazon.com is the way to do that. Tell me about your reason for writing that book, ’cause it’s been a successful book for you.
Abe Wagner: Well, there’s two books. I also wrote The Transactional Manager, that print us all published originally. Well, you know, it was really … I’m doing things in organizations, and speaking at conventions, and I haven’t written a book. Writing a book sort of gives you credence.
So what happens, is people say, “Well, he’s an author,” and they’ll listen. So I put it on paper, and it helps because it’s a great support for what I teach.
Matt Register: Yeah, no doubt about that. So what is the easiest way, if somebody does wanna have you come in and talk to their organization or convention, what’s the easiest way for somebody to learn more?
Abe Wagner: They could look at my website, abewagner.com. A-B-E W-A-G-N-E-R.com.
Matt Register: Abewagner.com, and we’re gonna have that linked right from texasbusinessradio.com if you’re driving and can’t take notes. We will also have the book, Say It Straight Or You’ll Show It Crooked on our central reading list there at texasbusinessradio.com. Again, you can find that at Amazon.
Abe Wagner, all the way from Denver, Colorado, thank you very much for joining us, sir.
Abe Wagner: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Matt Register: No problem at all. You know, unfortunately, it’s time we gotta take a break, we gotta pay some of our own bills. We’re gonna be back right on the other side of the break with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio. Don’t go anywhere.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.