What’s More Valuable Than Money?

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Everyone has their price and getting the best deal is just a case of finding it. But what about when cash is the wrong currency?

Conflict, this word usually describes quite euphemistically an argument. These often occur when two opposing perceptions collide and someone gets a punch in the face or fired! Okay, maybe I overstated that a little but you get the picture. Conflict Resolution used to be the buzz phrase but that has been reined in to Conflict Management since people realised that real resolution is so elusive.  

In this article, I will use two case studies to show how conflict occurs and how it was resolved, quite brilliantly. The cases are quite different in scale but similar in essence. In both cases a generous helping of tactical or cognitive empathy was key.  

 According to Goleman and Eckman There are three types of empathy, cognitive, compassionate and emotional. Chris Voss, ace FBI hostage negotiator and coach calls cognitive empathy Tactical Empathy, but I see them simply as ways to get your head out of your butt and see things from another perspective. And, you’ll be surprised how often the solution is there just waiting to be heard. 

While I was working today, a package arrived. It wasn’t anything exciting, a vacuum cleaner but it came to my door and I ordered it from my living room. It’s called e-commerce and it’s a big thing, so I understand. Through the wonders of the Interwebs, I can find a product, get the best price and pay with a bunch of numbers on a little plastic card. Who would believe it! I can do this from my phone when I’m out, technology is amazing and I didn’t need to go to the shops, burn any petrol or pause Netflix! 

Now, all of this magic is underpinned by some real old-fashioned stuff, like truck drivers who move stuff around the country. Now, I live in Greece and I can quite easily drive from one end of the country to the other in one day but if you live in a country as vast as say India such journeys are not possible. It takes three or four days to drive from Mumbai to New Delhi.  

So, in India there is a huge market for logistics and entrepreneur Deepak Garg envisioned tapping into that market. He founded Rivigo, but he came across a problem, a huge problem. He couldn’t find enough truck drivers. Apparently, most truck drivers come from the villages in India so he went out to recruit some.  

He couldn’t get enough, no one wanted to be a truck driver. So, what do you do when you have a need for a particular profession but not enough applicants? Obviously, a simple supply and demand situation. Getting a licence wasn’t a serious obstacle so what was it. And, here’s the clever part. Normally in such situations you simply improve the pay, everybody wants more money, I want more money and so do you, so that must be the solution. But Deepak Garg was starting a new company and had to make his investors’ money go as far as he could. Throwing too much money at the problem could kill the startup before it gained traction. 

He went out and listened. 

Truck drivers in India have got a pretty poor reputation, days on the road get hard and many fall into alcohol, drugs and prostitution, according to Sunil Gupta professor of business at Harvard business school. The result of this is that no one wants their son to be a truck driver and no one wants their daughter to marry one. This effectively makes them untouchables. 

The problem was not an economic one but social.  

Garg soon reasoned that if he could get his drivers home every night, he would have more and happier drivers. His solution was a relay system where each driver took the truck to a change-over point four hours from home then brought a truck back and had his slippers on before bedtime with his wife.  

He used tracking tech to coordinate the movement of the truck and the shipment would continue on its way without sleepovers at the roadside and dubious temptations. 

The source of the solution was the people of the villages that didn’t want to be truck drivers but asking the right questions revealed their objections. 

If he had approached the problem with the usual approach of “Hey, I got jobs, good jobs with good money!” then failed to get the applicants, his business could have failed to take off. As it was, he not only attracted drivers but started to change the attitude to the profession. Look at their site and you’ll see how central the drivers are to their brand. He gave them respect and recognition, which is valuable currency to anyone and everyone.  

You’ll see how key it was in the following case. 

A manager of a busy technical support department, let’s call him Jack had an experienced service engineer, let’s call him Frank, who was not pulling his weight. Frank was close to retirement and had years of hands-on experience but his KPI was falling. Jack called him in and explained that pay reviews were coming up but he’d be hard pushed to give him much more than the basic as his performance was not up with the rest of the team. Frank shrugged and little changed. Jack was forced to bring him in again and this time explain the 3-strike disciplinary action. Jack didn’t want to lose Frank, he was highly skilled and great with the customers but he was getting it from all sides and had to do something to get him motivated. He had tried financial, the respect from his colleagues and even dismissal but Frank made no permanent improvement.  

I advised Jack to go a little deeper into Frank’s situation, ask about home, how he felt about his looming retirement and how he felt about taking some leave to get his energy back. That was it! Being home was the problem. Since lockdown he had been moved to remote-working and after, when things got a little easier, it was assumed that this was a benefit to the old guy and he, along with many others were left on remote. You see, he was getting under his wife’s feet at home and she kept finding jobs for him to do. Mrs. Frank felt that working from home was not a real job and he was just lazing. He had lost her respect.  

Jack got him back into the office, pay reviews had passed and he got a basic increment, he had 1 strike against him but he got out from under Mrs. Frank’s feet and his self-esteem back. Nothing scared him more than staying at home. Jack says his KPI has clicked up, his experience is valuable to the others in the team and he is always available to advise and share his knowledge.    

Both these cases were brilliantly simple, you might even be thinking that they didn’t even merit an article, but the simple approach of finding the cause of the conflict often eludes us. We are usually so focused on success, imposing our will, making it happen that we forget to ask the right questions, to ask the other, “What would make this better?”  

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