What’s wrong with trying?

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” The Empire Strikes Back.  This statement by Yoda gets quoted a lot. I understand it but when it is used in a work context, I have trouble with it.

My manager never quoted that to me, but she did object when I said I would try to make the sale she was asking about.  I was an exceptionally good sales professional.  I couldn’t image a time when I would not give everything I had to make the sale. 

Customers can be unpredictable so even if I was relatively sure I was going to make the sale, I didn’t want to jinx it by saying it was going to happen.  It seemed dishonest.   If she had asked me for something I had total control over, I would get it done but even then until I had only a few finishing touches on the project I would be reluctant to promise that it would be done. I didn’t want to over promise and under deliver.

Maybe this was because years earlier I had a manager who kept pressing me about a pending sale.  It was to a very large shipyard that had an antiquated telephone system.  It would be a very large sale and he was anxious to get the credit.  In fact, the week before I was to pick up the contract without my knowing it he announced the sale to the company.

The stress on me was enormous and as luck would have it, the contract I was to pick up was on the President’s desk when the company announced that they had lost a sale of 3 ships to be built in this shipyard.  You can figure out the rest.

Of course, in that instance my manager had no right to claim a sale and he knew it.  As a manager though I now understand that managers really need the commitment from the salesperson.  “I am going to get the sale!” feels to them as though the person is totally engaged in getting the job done.  Who wants a wishy washy person who says, “I’ll try”?  We are talking about mind set here.

“Try” gives you a mindset that says, “I have a way out”.  With no commitment the person might take the easy way out without taking any risks.  Risks can mean failure, but it also can mean reward.  If something is heading toward failure, taking a risk can be called for.  After saying “Try” I might avoid the risk and feel the safer way for me would be to tell my manager, “I gave it a good try”.

There is no right answer here.  Just two different people with two different ways of dealing with an issue.  For some people eliminating the word try from their vocabulary works in keeping them engaged and working toward the goal.  For others eliminating the word try from their vocabulary is annoying and stressful and gets in the way of their success.

What can a manager do to manage better?  They must know their people and what works with each individual.   It’s not a one size fits all situation.

I use a behavioral assessment with some of my clients so that they know their own behavioral style and what it says about them to others.  They also learn to look at the behavior of those they manage and determine what their style is.  From there they learn how to communicate to a particular behavioral style,

Some of my clients have found the behavioral assessment so helpful they have every member of their team take it.  Team members can work better together once they understand each other’s behavioral style. The assessment helps to build trust within the team.

If you are interested in learning more about the DISC Behavioral assessment, please give me a call.  I can be reached at 781-598-0388 or email me at asparker@asparker.com.


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