Forget Their Shoes—Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Chair

Last week, I received another great email via the “Ask a Question” button on my site.

My correspondent had been moved to a new position—after being promised a promotion in his old position—and was getting ready to go in and talk to his new supervisor about that promise.

In his words,

“Upper management decided this new group needed an analyst, and due to my background, they really wanted me to work for them…

I have tried to express all the hard work I have put in, but there seems to be little interest from my new manager.”

What was his request of me?

“How can I talk effectively with my new manager about this promised promotion?”

What did I tell him?

Begin by putting yourself in your manager’s chair.

How could he do this?

By stating up front how his request was likely to affect his manager’s life as opposed to his own.

Here’s the script I laid out,

“I know you have been managing this group for a while and so, are aware of all the personalities and dynamics involved.

I recognize that – rightly or wrongly— my request for promotion might land poorly with many of these team members. I am an unknown quantity to them, and to you.

I understand that this has the potential to put you in a difficult position, and that numerous factors need to be considered as you think about granting my request for promotion. That said, here is what I do bring to the table…”

Why did I think this would work? Because beginning with all the possible objections his manager might have would help his manager listen more clearly to his qualifications—his manager wouldn’t be “pretend listening” while secretly rehearsing his rebuttal in advance.

I am happy to report that I received an email this morning that this choice had been effective.

In my correspondent’s words,

“I just wanted to let you know the meeting with my manager went well. We talked about the group’s current situation and dynamics, his plans for me, and what our goals were for the future. Honestly, that conversation alone made me feel amazing. From that point in the meeting, I knew we were finally on the same page.”

So the next time you need to talk to someone about making a dream come true, I recommend taking a moment before you begin to sit in their chair.


For more on the value of seeing situations from multiple perspectives take a look at “Why Everybody Needs Bifocals”