118: Constructive Confrontation with Jathan Janove

By February 13, 2017Podcasts

 

Employee engagement expert / lawyer Jathan Janove shares hard-won wisdom in the management trenches.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to breach difficult conversations with constructive confrontational questions
  2. The step-by-step to a win-win conversation
  3. The MIDAS touch method to making golden apologies

About Jathan

Having previously spent 25 years litigating workplace relationships that turned toxic, Jathan now works with employers as an organization development consultant, executive coach and trainer to improve leadership, trust, accountability, retention and employee engagement. He’s also an award-winning, internationally published author whose latest book is Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories From The Management Trenches.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jathan Janove Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jathan, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Jathan Janove
Oh, happy to be here. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, one of the very first things I noticed on your website as I was taking a look around, is that your logo has the word “Engage!” with an exclamation point, in a speech bubble. And so I have to know if you’re also a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Jathan Janove
Well, I am now. And the reason is I was always kind of the original fan of the original show.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, not the very first fan.

Jathan Janove
Yeah, but then I paid a fair amount of dough at a charitable event so that I can have my picture taken with William Shatner who was the celebrity guest.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Jathan Janove
And I dragged my wife along. It was never in the Star Trek or TV or anything. But, anyway, so we get our minute to shake hands and the photographer takes your picture, and, “Thank you very much,” and so on and so forth. And so I got my picture and let’s just say that Shatner looked as if he had put on his brand new fanciest shoes and stepped in some real nasty doggy doo and that’s my picture with the great Capt. Kirk. So, yes, it’s a long-winded answer to your question. Yeah, I’m now a fan of the next version.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is fun. I’ve actually read as a youngster a book entitled Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation. And call me dorky but I loved it. There were two things I really appreciated at that age – Star Trek and Leadership Learning, and it hit the spot even though it was, you knew what they were trying to do, being gratuitous and tap into the audience, but it worked. I loved it.

Jathan Janove
Right. Well, I would add a lesson that said that, you know, when people are coughing over some dough at a charitable organization you can least smile with the picture. Come on, Bill.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, surprisingly. Maybe something caught him off guard. Hopefully, you weren’t smelly or sweaty or –

Jathan Janove
Well, that’s it. Maybe that’s where it came from. But in any event, you know, so be it. But, yes, I was a long time Trekkie fan. And actually I liked Jean Luc. I like him. Yeah, make it so.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I found it inspiring at the time. But, yeah, so cool stuff. Now, your latest book Hard-Won Wisdom has a number of funny stories in the mix, and that’s what folks really dig about it. Could you open us up with one of the most knee-slapping or tales that gets a real rise out of audiences?

Jathan Janove
Oh, boy. Oh, that’s a tough one. You know, people say, “What’s your favorite story, a funny story?” And I say, “You tell me.” And literally, because it’s sort of a jumble. Let’s see. Let’s go with the one-night stand and use of email. All of us have probably had an experience where email exchanges didn’t turn out the way we intended them to turn out, and this would fall in that category.
This involved two employees, field service engineers for a large company who manufactured a big product, they worked out of their home, home offices, and basically on the road. They would service their equipment for large customers. At one project, two different field service engineers were assigned, and this often happens if you’re with a work colleague on a road trip, you spend time together, meals together, you work together, and that’s fine. It helps pass the time.
Well, let’s just say I’ll use names – Brenda and Sheldon, not their real names, of course – worked in this fashion. Well, the last night, last evening before this trip was going to end, let’s just say copious amounts of alcohol were consumed which perhaps influenced judgment. But long story short they spent the night together.
In the morning, there were very different views of the night before. On the part of Sheldon it was, you know, to paraphrase the last line in Casablanca, “I think we have the beginning of a beautiful friendship here.” In the case of Brenda it’s quite different, “I will never drink alcohol with a co-worker again. OMG, what did I do?”
Now, fortunately for Brenda, as I say, they worked out of home offices, they were in different states, and she was able to avoid having to work with him and fended off further advances. The problem, that otherwise would’ve not existed, has to do with email, a common email mistake. Well, a day after the night in question, well, and I won’t elaborate and I’ll respect your audience without detail.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, you have the detail, my goodness.

Jathan Janove
Oh, yes, I actually have the email. I have the email itself. Well, let’s just say that Sheldon experienced an anatomical malfunction that was, you know, overcome eventually. And in this email, being an engineer that he is, he explained it in some detail as well as reassuring Brenda that the aforesaid problem, she could have confidence that it would, on future rendezvous, not reoccur. And so he was giving her some confidence.
Of course, when Brenda saw that email, not only did she delete it and then delete it from her trash folder, she was close to picking up her laptop and throw it in the waste can and setting it on fire. She didn’t quite go that far but that kind of shows how she viewed things differently than Sheldon. Well, that would’ve been the end of it, as I said, different states.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah, I know all these things, but I wondered.

Jathan Janove
So how do I know all this?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jathan Janove
It’s based on a common email mistake. Have you ever clicked reply to an email where you changed the subject in the body of the email, but you didn’t go up to the subject line and change the subject line? How common is that? It’s easy, you just click reply and then you have something else on your mind and you type it out, the email is already teed up for you.
Well, in this particular case, rather than sending new email to Brenda, Sheldon had clicked reply to a business email that Brenda had sent that had to do with a particular repair question about a particular case of company equipment. The subject line, the re: line said, “Repair Macro Assembly 5.” Sheldon clicked reply and obviously talked about repair of a different sort.
Well, that again, that should’ve been the end of it except that a couple of months, or more actually, later Sheldon got this idea that, as he was kind of a senior lead engineer that he had meticulously saved common repair and maintenance questions, and would be a good idea for him to batch those up and send those to people that would benefit from that knowledge.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Jathan Janove
And so what he did was he scrolled through looking at subject lines, and he clicked a set of message on what he thought were these common repair and maintenance questions. And then he went into his address book and clicked the whole bunch of addresses of people that he thought would benefit from this knowledge – his superiors, his reports, his colleagues, his trainees, key customers, of course, Brenda is in that mix. And so this big batch of email goes out to this big group of recipients where you could see all their names and addresses up in the To: line.
Brenda sees that, she’s scrolling through some of the messages, and she sees Repair Macro Assembly 5, “Please, God, no.” She clicks it. And guess what? Sheldon, and I’m convinced, unintentionally, accidentally, because it sure doesn’t make Sheldon look good, included the message, his mail mea culpa message to Brenda.
So, Brenda sees this horrid message again. But what else does she see? That her bosses, her superiors, her colleagues, her trainees, her key customer contacts, they all see it, too.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Jathan Janove
And then if we ever want to talk a little bit about the interesting twist and turns of the legal system, one way I sort of quota on the story is, the reason that I learned about this was not because of a complaint Brenda made, instead she dusted off her resume and quietly left the company shortly thereafter. It was another female field service engineer, who Sheldon had apparently been working on that saw this message and said, “Enough is enough.” And she complained to management and human resources, and that’s how this email eventually, as an employment attorney, fell into my hands.

Pete Mockaitis
Wild. Well, that’s – there’s several lessons there associated with prudent judgment on the road, and with co-workers, and with alcohol, and with email and, wow, that is a doozy. Thank you.

Jathan Janove
Like I said, there are so many of human beings. As I say in the preface, I don’t have to make stuff up. I don’t need an imagination. I just need a memory, and not even that good a memory because what people do you can’t make up

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s so fascinating. And so I’d like to maybe zoom out a little bit. So your background is law and your firm is all about employee engagement and such. And it’s interesting I think some folks might view those as at odds with one another. Like what’s fun and engaging does not have much to do with compliance and risk management, etcetera. But how do you view this world?

Jathan Janove
That’s a great point. And I look at it this way. I describe my journey as from OD to OD to OD. Now, when you say OD most folks outside of law say that stands for Organization Development. You have consultants, you have coaches, you have all these learning development training, organization development.
Well, I actually started in that version of OD back in the 1970s when I was in high school. My father was a university professor, and he was an organization development consultant before there was even a term that was recognized. He essentially worked with organizations, employers, U.S. Air Force being probably the largest one, on how to create organizational trust, accountability, synergy, those kinds of things.
And so he would drag me along to some of his programs. And so that was kind of my first taste of what we conventionally today think of as OD. And then I went to law school, the heck with all that. You know, organizational trust, synergy, cooperation, collaboration? Forget about it, okay. That doesn’t shit a re-billable hours. And yet I practiced labor and employment law first on the side of employees and unions, then subsequently I made a shift. Depending on your point of view, I either saw the light or was drawn to the dark side, I became a management attorney, same issues, other side of the table.
And yet I claim for those 25 years I spent there I remained an OD. It’s good for organization dysfunction. Because what was generating those cases, those claims, the workplace misery on which I made my living was all rooted to organization dysfunction. All the things that my father was about were when they broke down they produced, among other casualties, employment litigation.
I’ve now moved on from that and I’ve gone back to my father’s OD informed by my 25 years in the trenches, the 25 years where I made a living on the other. And so that’s what, if I bring something a little bit different to the table in the conventional OD world, that’s what it is, the lessons, if you will, from the trenches.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, intriguing. And so could you share with us, you know, what are some key principles that really you find go a long way towards boosting engagement and minimizing liability at the same time?

Jathan Janove
Well, I think probably the one that I continue to talk about, and I use an analogy to skiing. I don’t know if you ski or not, but this is what I see goes wrong. And I sometimes describe myself, when I was practicing law, that although my business card said “Attorney At Law” really I was more like a different kind of professional, a certain kind of medical professional, which is after the yellow police tape is put up and the crowd is held back and the victim is carefully removed from the scene, brought in on a gurney and there I await in my scrubs and I make the T incision and open it up. In other words, I was a coroner doing autopsies of terminal employment relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I see.

Jathan Janove
And when you do hundreds of thousands of these, you see patterns. And one of the most common patterns that I would see, how a relationship began win-win in a workplace, and ended toxic lose-lose in the United States legal system, was something I want to analogize to skiing, and it has to do with a natural intuitive seemingly self-protective instinct. Which is, if you learn how to ski, so I had to learn how to ski, is there’s a natural tendency the first time you’re faced on a downhill slope, where you’re worried about going too fast, out of control, it’s an out-of-body experience, so Mother Nature says, “Counter balance downhill momentum with uphill momentum. Get your weight up closer, back behind you, toward Mother Earth wherein allegedly lie safety.”
But if you lean back on your skis and you start down a hill, what’s going to happen? The very thing you want to avoid. You’re going too fast out of control, you’re going to crash. So what do instructors teach you to do? It’s completely counterintuitive. They tell you to put your weight forward on your skis, forward toward the danger, toward what makes you anxious, that the only way, in fact, you can ski effectively is to learn how to use that avoidance instinct, the leaning back, as a trigger to do the exact opposite.
And in my 25 years of employment litigation, including now, all the work I do as an executive coach, as a consultant, as a workshop, all the different facets that I now do in my current career, that lesson continues to ring true.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s really fascinating. So, can you give us some examples in practice, what is leaning forward look like?

Jathan Janove
Well, what I’m saying is, if I’m coaching somebody or advising somebody or working with somebody, and they say, “You know, I have this employee that reports to me and we’re just not quite hitting it on all cylinders and I’m getting frustrated. And I’m thinking about maybe I’ll talk to HR, and maybe HR can talk to him. Or maybe I’ll wait till the annual review and I’ll put something on the annual review. Or maybe I just need to quietly look for a replacement, you know, line somebody up and then just make a change. And I’ll call it a layoff. Whatever it is.”
I’ll say, “Well, what specifically have you said to the employee regarding your expectations and regarding the gap in what they’re doing and what your expectations are?” Invariably what I’ll find is little or nothing. Hence, indirection, maybe some emotional frustration, an email when a face-to-face would be the best way to go, “But email was easier. I just put my fingers on my keyboard. I don’t have to see you, hear you, smell you, deal with you,” etcetera.
And so what I coach is, “Okay, let’s prepare for your face-to-face meeting that you’re going to have at the earliest possible opportunity, and let’s talk about what you’re going to say and the questions you’re going to ask.” That’s weight forward on skis.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I hear you. So, it’s interesting. So you’re saying they’ve got some fear and your experience, when they follow that fear and take a less courageous approach in addressing the situation, they end up creating more potential legal trouble for themselves.

Jathan Janove
Well, and forget the legal trouble. I mean, that was just sort of, you know, bad icing on the cake. For every avoidance, for every autopsy I did I would say, based on my overall experience in workplaces and working with employers, there’s thousands of relationships that didn’t end up in the legal system, but it ended up lose-lose when they didn’t need to be. Thousands. For every one that ended up in the legal system, there’s thousands of lose-lose because of a failure to communicate.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I hear you and I totally resonate with that and I’m seeing that. I guess I’m trying to speak directly to the fear at the same time there. So you’re saying that in addition to having a higher probability of getting to a win-win by boldly, courageously facing that issue right here right now, you’re also, and in fact, hurting yourself. Because I think that’s a real source of the fear, it’s like, “Oh, if I say that they’re going to freak out, and then I could get myself in trouble.” And so you’re saying, “No, no. It’s quite the opposite. You should go there.

Jathan Janove
Yes. And along with that there’s an approach you can take that is, in my experience, guarantees as close as I can guarantee anything, that won’t produce the result you fear.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m intrigued. Let’s hear it. Bring it on.

Jathan Janove
Okay. Well, one of the things that I coach and teach is when you talk about expectations and a gap in expectations, okay, it’s not a time for emotion. The focus is on problem-solving. It’s also not a time to dwell in the past. Don’t think of yourself as a school teacher assigning a term grade, which gives you some insight into what I think about conventional performance review systems. What you’re there to do is to find out an intervention, explore an intervention by which you can align yourself with the employee on the road ahead.
And it’s, in fact, one of the concepts in Marshall Goldsmith, this is one of his big concepts in Stakeholder Centered Coaching, which I use too, is this concept of feet forward versus feet back. And the way I describe it is you’re on the highway going 70 miles an hour. Do you use your rearview mirror? Well, hopefully, you do. But do you keep your eyes fixed and glued to the rearview mirror? Hopefully not. Where is your primary attention? Front windshield, the road ahead.
It’s the same thing with communicating with your employees. Yes, what they did and the impact of what they did is relevant. That’s the rearview mirror and that’s perfectly legitimate to describe factually not emotionally, not in some sort of conclusory type of way. What specifically they did, what the impact was, don’t stay there. And that’s where so many managers get hang up. They stay fixed to the rearview mirror.
Shift it to the front windshield. Okay, what can we learn from this that will align us on the road ahead so that we are both successful? And when you take that approach and when you shift that paradigm, I can’t tell you the number of times that managers who went into these conversations, where I’m coaching them right up to the brink, they don’t want to go, “Come on, now. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.” I’m like almost virtually pushing them into the room with the employee, and then they come out with this, “Oh, my goodness. Wow.” That a-ha moment. “It was actually a constructive conversation. The employee actually took ownership of both problem and solution. We have a road ahead.”
Or, in certain cases, where there was a discussion where the employee said, “Gosh, if that’s really what you need maybe I’m not the right fit.”

Pete Mockaitis
And he volunteered. Okay.

Jathan Janove
When I’ve coached terminations and I’ve also conducted them and I’ve had people conduct them, I generally say, “If you do it right it’s really not a termination. It’s a mutual decision if it’s not right and it’s a respectful transition.” You need to find somebody that will fit what you need and they need to find a place where they’ll fit what that employer needs. And if you handle it that way you’ll be amazed at how many times that’s how it plays out and how they actually thank you for the way. As recent as a week ago, how they thank you for the manner that you treated them where essentially you’re exiting them.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fantastic. So a couple of follow-up questions there. First, I’d say I know it varies widely. Widely and wildly. But could you maybe share a percentage to further, to help dispel this fear? Like what proportion of the time where two people, managers who are dragging that conversation, they go in there and then they exit like elated, relieved, so surprised by how easy, fun, constructive, happy it was, versus they’re going, “Oh, man. I knew that was going to be brutal, and sure enough it was”?

Jathan Janove
Well, it’s with a caveat it’s 100%.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Jathan Janove
Meaning, it’s 100% of the time with the exception of when, and they’ll always confess this to me, and this is actually had me refine my methods because I realized I needed to help them more than I was helping them, it wasn’t enough to describe the theory and lay it out. And it’s pretty close to 100%, period, now that I’ve stepped up my game as a coach and helping prepare them. But what I say with a caveat was if they came back and said, “Oh, that didn’t go well,” and I’d say, “Well, tell me what happened. What did you say? What did she say? What did he say?”
Inevitably what I discovered was they started out down the hill weight forward on skis and then something made them pull back. And they started to avoid, they started to get evasive, they started to get emotional and then you had the crash. And so what that told me was I need to step up my game in preparing them so that when that urge comes on them, and I’m not there, they’re on the slope by themselves, that that instinct, is that if it kicks back in they’re not going to give in to it.
And since then it’s been a long, long time since I’ve received feedback that said, “Boy, that didn’t go well.” And I don’t attribute that, well, I attribute that to sometimes, and this is something for us outside consultant and coaches, is sometimes we have to step up our game, too. It’s not just they need to step up their game. We need to step up our game, and that’s actually the lesson that I drew. But, otherwise, I would say basically 100% of the time it’s going to go far better than what your fears tell you it’ll go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so good. So could you maybe walk us through an example, and it doesn’t have to be a full transcript, but maybe an accelerated transcript of we got a manager doing an intervention, sort of what do you say and what do you watch out for and not say so it happens well?

Jathan Janove
Well, one way and one thing that I coach people on is what I call the constructive confrontational question. Which is the constructive confrontational question has three components or three essential characteristics. One is it’s an open-ended question. It’s truly an exploratory question. It’s not a yes or no question. Two is it’s not a cross-examination question which I define as somebody who did a share of cross-examining, as an opinion masquerading as a question. You know, more often those are yes or no, “Isn’t it true that?” That’s so common but you can also ask an open-ended question that’s cross-examining, “PY just screw up again.” Right? Open-ended. Still cross-examining.
So it’s truly there’s no opinion. It’s truly a curiosity-based you want to learn. And the third is you go right to the heart of it. You go to the heart of it. And so you say, “Jim,” “Sally,” whoever it is, “Here’s what I’m seeing and it’s not working and here’s the impact and here’s the behavior, here’s the impact. Here’s my concern.” And you lay it out, you don’t pull any punches. It’s factual but you don’t beat around the bush. You don’t tell them you appreciate the fact they’re always on time. You go right to the issue especially if it’s potentially going to change their status.
And you say, instead of saying, “You’ve got to this,” or, “You’ve got to that,” or, “Here’s what needs to happen.” You say, “What do you think? How do you see it? What’s your view? What do you think happened? Where do you think we need to go from here?” And it’s amazing how it just reframes the conversation. And so that’s something that, whatever it is, you fill in the blank. If it’s performance, behavior, attendance, whatever it is, you point it out, you don’t beat around the bush, you point out it’s serious, you’re very concerned.
If it’s something that may result in their not being able to continue in their position you say that. You say, “I’m concerned because this has to change or else we’ve got to get somebody in this position where we can get this. I want to know what you think. How do you see it? What’s your view?” Pure open-ended questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, I’m wondering about a particular application of this in the realm of what you might call folks who don’t seem motivated, enthusiastic, engaged, bought in, like just exerting basic effort.

Jathan Janove
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Do all these same principles apply or are there any nuances or slants you’d add to that situation?

Jathan Janove
Yeah, the basic principles would apply, being, “Sally, we need to chat. Let’s talk.” And, of course, ideally face-to-face. Sometimes it may have to be by phone but certainly real time. Never email, never voice mail, never text, preferably face-to-face. “You know, Sally, I have a concern I want to share with you. I’m kind of sensing you’re sort of going through the motions. Let me give you an example, and this is my concern, and here’s what I need. And so I’m concerned about whether or not it’s going to work with us. Yet I want to know how you see it. And what do you see? How do you see it? And if there’s an issue and if there’s a problem and if there’s something that I’m doing that’s zapping that enthusiasm or that zest or that energy, you know, one of the examples that I’m getting, let me know. Permission to speak freely.” Because my goal is to have –

Pete Mockaitis
How Star Trek.

Jathan Janove
Star Trek, there you go. Permission to speak freely.

Pete Mockaitis
Granted.

Jathan Janove
But, you know, and also I’ve got to tell a lot of managers, they say, “Permission to speak freely,” and I say, “Yeah, but have you created an environment where they really think that? Because if they don’t think that you can say all you want and they’re going to.” But that’s part of what you’re asking an open-ended question.
And also what the end in mind is the road ahead. It’s not to blame or judge it, “Can we get aligned on the road ahead? Or, Sally, is there a way that you and I can work together successfully long term? Here’s what I would need to see from my perspective. Now you tell me what you see and how you see it.” And you might find out certain things that are going to cause you to wince. They’re going to cause you to, you may discover if you truly create a permission-to-speak-freely environment that Sally is going to tell you that you stepped on her toes in some meeting where she was starting to present an idea and you cut her off, as the boss, because you are going to embellish her idea.
And ever since then she’s pull back. And you’ve got be ready for that. And say, “Wow, boss’ blind spot,” which we all got blind spots, but the higher up you are and the longer you’ve been there the bigger they are, and I can say that coaching CEOs. I’ve never worked with a CEO that didn’t have some serious blind spots. And so the reality is you’ve got to be open to that. When Sally tells you you embarrass her in a meeting or you cut her off or you disempowered her, and that’s why you’re not seeing the zest and the enthusiasm, the engagement, why she seems to be more transactional, “I put in my time. I get my pay. I go home. Life begins.” That, in fact, you have been a major cause in that problem.
And if you’re serious about wanting to create a win-win situation then you’ve got to be aware of your own behavior and its impact. And if you are, and if they sense that you’re genuine in that way, it’s going to work out. Either Sally is going to hit a new gear that’s going to put a smile on your face, or there’s going to be a mutual recognition that it’s not right and she’s going to move along quietly and respectfully and without any fuss. And I don’t even mean legal fuss. I mean just fuss fuss. Not even stress fuss. Much less legal fuss which is how where the road leads back to the legal system because the stuff that I talked about you don’t even have to agree about the legal system. You get the benefits go way above and beyond that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s excellent. So now I’m curious. In that exchange, you know, Sally referenced something that would seem to necessitate an apology or approach and change, a change of approach there. So in your book you also lay out a Midas touch apology method. What’s the story there?

Jathan Janove
Well, one of the things I kind of developed this sort of interest in apologies, but initially from a legal perspective. Because lawyers conventionally were against client apologizing. Why? Because they’re afraid they’d be used as an admissions of fault that could be used against them in court. But there were all these studies, they started out actually in medical malpractice in the 1980s that showed that when medical providers apologized, instead of increasing liability it decreased it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Jathan Janove
And that led to all these sorts of developments. And so I was intrigued by that but I was also intrigued by experiences that I saw in the legal system, and then also reflected in sort of personal life, how apologies made things worse. And in some cases produced lawsuits that wouldn’t have occurred but for the apology. And so I asked myself, “What separates apologies that heal, that lower the temperature, or extinguish the fire, and those that do the opposite?” And it seems to me that the big difference-maker is the very simple three-letter word. Any guess?

Pete Mockaitis
Three-letter word? Oh, ask. I don’t know.

Jathan Janove
Putting you on the spot. I’ll spot you the first letter. It begins with a B. B-U-T.

Pete Mockaitis
But?

Jathan Janove
But. I’m sorry but. Well, you know what’s coming after, right? It’s going to be excuse, rationalization, justification or counterattack, “You know, I’m sorry but you really are a jerk.” Right? Apology accepted? And so I started to sort of isolate that, and then from a coaching-teaching standpoint, because the “but” is hardwired in us. That’s the part that we’re most interested in our apologies. We want to explain. We want to justify. We want to excuse or we want to show them why, “Yes, maybe what we did wasn’t so great, yet they deserved it.” Or they brought it on. And which, of course, then just makes it worse.
And so I asked myself, “What’s a way to help people avoid the ‘but’ trap?” And I played around with some different things, and I get to work with people so I can experiment, and of course sometimes I got to do them myself, as my wife would tell you. That’s why I came up with this idea the Midas touch as a way to discipline yourself. And the Midas touch is simply this – M stands for mistake, I stands for injury, okay? Mistake, injury, differently, amends, stop. Midas. How does that work?
Okay, well, it says if you’re doing this right you admit you made a mistake. You did something wrong. Well, maybe they did something wrong too. It doesn’t matter. You don’t talk about that. You talk about the mistake you made. Injury, you don’t say, “If I offended you.” You know they were offended. That’s why their face is red. That’s why they sent you that email that exploded on you. You know they’re offended. Don’t say, “If I offended you,” or like some people do, they won’t even say, “If I offended you.” “If my comment offended you.” Like, “Don’t get mad at me. Get mad at my comment.” Okay?
And then D, and this is key, differently, “I’m going to do things differently.” That shows your sincerity, you mean it. Differently. And the A, amends, means you really want to heal the relationship. Some people say, “Well, what’s an example of amends?” I say, “It could be anything. It could be a potted plant. It could be,” and I just did this recently where I’ve done this myself where I was the one giving the Midas touch apology, where I had screwed up and offended people. Where I said, “Have your spouse pick his or her favorite restaurant in your town, give me the date, time, where it is, and then I’m calling them up and they’re going to have my credit card. And you just have a good time out.” “Oh, no, it’s not necessary.” I said, “You’re not doing this, this isn’t for you. This is for me. That’s for me because I need to make amends. I need to make amends.”
It’s something concrete you do. So it reinforces when you say, “I’m going to do things differently. Okay, I’m not going to repeat.” In other words, the insincere apology, of course, tells you that they’re just going to repeat the same behavior and then they’ll apologize again and this’ll be a repeating pattern. So you know it’s a bunch of hooey. And so, “I’m going to do things differently and I want to make this gesture for you. I want to do this.” Or you just do the gesture.
And then S, and this is key. S is stop. Don’t say another word because that’s when the temptation is going to overwhelm you because that’s where the ‘but’ part comes in, and you stop. And it’s their turn to talk. And it’s really been pretty amazing. In fact, I tell audiences, I say, “You know, I kind of think I’m old on apology by some certain people, and my feelings are a little hurt, but there are some weddings I think I should’ve been invited to because people told me that they took this Midas touch apology home with them and let’s just say a significant other that was heading in the wrong direction that all of a sudden it rerouted, and now it’s heading to the altar. But that’s okay. I understand.” But that’s the difference.

Pete Mockaitis
They had a limited number of seats in the reception.

Jathan Janove
They had a limited number of seats so, you know, that’s okay. But that would’ve been a ‘but.’ “We had a limited number of seats.” Oh, well, you could’ve sent me a piece of cake. Come on, now. Okay, get over it, Jathan. That’s the power though of the Midas touch apology. And also how one of the things that excites me, even though I make it very clear I’m not a life coach, I’m not a therapist, okay, I’m not a family counselor, and yet one of the coolest things that has kind of kept me going is the number of times that people have said, “That my business employer relations staff/coaching/counseling/training/teaching has a real impact outside of work,” in their personal lives, in their homes, in their communities, and that’s pretty exciting stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well, Jathan, this is fun. You sucked me right in. It’s very powerful, very engaging. I want to have a reasonably short episode but answer me this. Is there anything else you really want to make sure you put out there before we shift gears and quickly hear about some of your favorite things?

Jathan Janove
Well, I think, really, in between the books I’ve written and then if you go to my website it’ll take you to my blog. I write a blog column for Business Management Daily. In fact, the thing about the constructive confrontational question you can get there. But basically I like to write. I’ve written for HR Magazine a bunch of times. And so I would just say the material is there, and certainly anybody can reach out to me if they want to throw something by me. I’m always looking for stories, so the quid pro quo is if you want a little coaching advice or a suggestion, fine but then you share the story with me afterwards.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally fair. Totally fair. All right then. Well, then, tell us do you have a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jathan Janove
Wow, I have a lot of favorite quotes. For whatever reason, the one that just pop in my head is from Winston Churchill, Sir Winston, “For myself, I am an optimist. It does not seem much use in being anything else.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Jathan Janove
It’s something to do with today’s current times. I don’t know but –

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. It’s on the money. And how about a favorite study or experiment or piece of research?

Jathan Janove
Wow, oh, a favorite piece of research. Well, one of the things that stood out for me was a professor, a Teresa, I’m sure I’ll mispronounce her name, but it’s like the Italian opera, Amabile. I think it’s like A-M-A-B-I-L-E. She’s a Harvard professor. Because she read thousands and thousands of employee diaries to try to sort of isolate what made people engaged, what make people excited, enthusiastic, they want to get up and work, they bring that extra, that discretionary energy you can’t command and control.

And what she found from reading thousands and thousands of diary entries was the importance of feeling like you’re making a difference, you’ve achieved something, you’ve accomplished something. And that’s had a lot of influence on me and has influenced the way that I approach the concept of employee engagement.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, excellent. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Jathan Janove
I like biographies. Speaking of, maybe because I talked about Winston Churchill, but The Last Lion by William Manchester, loved that. The early years of Winston Churchill. Actually it was not a great quote. It’s actually one of my stories that’s in the book. Did you read the A Midnight Encounter at a Portland Pub? I quote Winston Churchill as this big guy is staring me down and about to serve me a knuckle sandwich. And the quote was this, this was in a letter that young Winston wrote to his mom after his first experience in war, and the quote is, “There is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”
And that quote of Sir Winston actually allowed me to escape something that maybe wouldn’t have been quite as bad but certainly painful in this Portland Pub at midnight. That’s when I talked about verbal aikido in the book. But that’s The Last Lion in sort of jumps out in terms of the non-fiction side. I remain a fan of Good to Great. I think it’s something that is still relevant, a lot of the principles.
I’m a fan of Dan Pink’s Drive, Marshall Goldsmith’s Wall Street and book triggers. I mean, there’s a lot of different non-fiction and business management-type books that I find a lot of value in but I also try to mix that with some fiction and biographies. I’m currently reading the Hamilton. You know, I don’t like to just sort of have a steady diet of business books, but there’s just so many. There’s such a wealth out there. It’s pretty extraordinary.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Thank you. And how about a favorite tool, whether that’s a product or a service, or app, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Jathan Janove
An app? Tool or app. Well, I’ve sort of denigrated the email in terms of the problems it causes, but email is a very useful tool as a, what I call, and this is the story Texas West in the same day summary. But I think email can be invaluable as a communication tool when it follows within a day, that’s the same day summary, within a day, less than a page, where one of the parties to the conversation summarizes what they think are the key takeaways.
So it’s not like minutes of a meeting. It’s just, so if I were to send this to you, I’d say, to Pete from me, “Here’s a summary of what I think are the key takeaways on this conversation we just had.” One, two, three, four, five bullets. “Let me know if I missed anything or misstated anything,” and then send it to you. And then if you think, “Well, there’s a six-point, or I don’t think that the fifth point was the right one,” you could just reply back and say, “Here’s how I see it.”

But I found so many uses, and so this has become one of the central, particular at the organization level of communication, one of the central ways that I teach people to communicate, and also how to “document without documenting.” How to have a written record of key communications but without it being that horrible word documentation, but rather it’s just another form of communication. And it works fundamentally at the human level, at the organization level. But I can also tell you from experience it works at that sort of claim prevention level as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, very good. Thank you. And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice of yours that’s been helpful?

Jathan Janove
Wow, probably for me it’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning is weigh myself. I found as my years grew so did my beltline. And one of the things I talk about, and we already talked about it, is behavior change is you need a very specific methodology. There’s three essential conditions to sustain behavior change. One is motivation. You’ve got to want it. If you don’t want it forget about it. But two is you have to have a clear path. What specifically are you going to do? Simply to say, “I’m going to get in better shape or I’m going to lose weight.” Forget about it. No hope.
And then the last is support, some supportive structure. So my little simple thing that I do is to sort of get down on the weight that I had gained and to maintain it, is first thing I do as I get up is weigh myself every morning, and then I remember that weight throughout the day. And so I don’t know why that popped into my head but it’s an example of even when we’re talking about communication skills, leadership development.
There’s a similar methodology as I say to the person, you know, “What is it that you want? Are you motivated to do this? Are you committed to do this? Because if you’re not, let’s not waste anybody’s time or energy. If you say you are committed or you’re motivated, then what specifically are you going to do on an ongoing basis that will produce the results that you want to achieve?” And then the last is, “How are we going to support that so the change becomes sustained, truly becomes a cemented habit?” So in my case that’s where I’ve taken that particular realm.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And would you say there is a particular nugget, a Jathan original quote that really seems to connect and resonate with folks in terms of getting them nodding their heads, Kindle book highlighting, re-tweeting what you had to say?

Jathan Janove
Weight forward on skis?

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Jathan Janove
I mean, that’s really what I tell people is if they buy into that analogy is as soon as you sense there’s a problem or there’s an issue, and it’s something that you wish you didn’t have to deal with, that you’d like to put at the back of the agenda, or off the agenda, you move it to the front. That’s weight forward on skis.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, good. And what would you say is the best way for folks to get in touch with you if they want to learn more or hear what you’re up to?

Jathan Janove
Probably just go to my website which is essentially my first and last name dot com. JathanJanove.com.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call-to-action you’d like to send forth to those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?

Jathan Janove
Well, yes. And what I would is I’d invite people to go to my blog, or to Business Management Daily. I’ve got a blog on my website. You can also find it from BusinessManagementDaily.com where I do a blog column. And read my recent posts on making 2017 the year of the ear which is a specific listening methodology and where I invite people and I share very specific techniques and tools including, by the way, the constructive confrontational question. Then I invite people to reach out to me with their stories and experiences.
So, typically what I do and, as you know from the book, there’s 46 stories and 46 moral of the story, teaching lessons. In this particular post, I reversed that. I give the moral but then invite the reader to provide the story. So I’d love to get some stories from you and from your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Thank you. That’s fun. All right. Well, Jathan, this has been so fun. Thanks for sharing your hard-won wisdom.

Jathan Janove
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
And I wish so much luck with the book and all you’re up to there.

Jathan Janove
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s been great. Thanks, Pete.

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