40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 28: More Meaning

What would you do?

I probably upset you by cutting the session, short yesterday. I hope so! So what did you do the homework or did you simply jump forward a page to get the answer. Honestly, don’t cheat yourself on this little exercise. If you let me tell you the answer you will not gain anything. The value is in exploring this issue yourself, first.

So if you haven’t thought it through do so now.

So we’re in a sales presentation. Rob is pitching and the prospect, John, looks at his watch. The question is: Why did John look at his watch?  When I do this in a seminar the answers include:

  • He’s bored.
  • He’s not interested.
  • He’s lost interest.
  • He has to be somewhere else.

The reality is: John looked at his watch. That’s all that happened. I am not inside John’s head. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what he’s thinking. But all that actually happened is: John looked at his watch. That’s it.

Everything else is the meaning you added to it. ‘He’s bored. He’s not interested. He’s lost interest. He has to be somewhere else.’ That’s all your stuff!

This is what we call adding meaning. We do this all the time. Someone says or does something and suddenly we are mind readers and body language experts and we know what happened and what’s real. Wrong! It’s a hard habit to break, by the way because we are being driven by our life’s experiences.

Now, the second activity: what would you do?

Remember we talked about options? What are your options? Do something indirect? Something direct? Or do nothing?

In this case I am sitting there and the clock is ticking. The deal is fats disappearing and now I have to assess this situation very fast. If I don’t intervene I’m choosing to do nothing for the moment and I’m possibly choosing to debrief with Rob after the sales meeting. In one sense, I am opting to let Rob learn a very hard costly lesson.

I could also do something indirect. I could call a pit stop and coach Rob on what’s happening.

What else is there? Well I can do something direct. This means I communicate directly with the person who needs direct communication. In this case: John. So I decide to say something to John (Rob’s client).

But what would you say?

I said: John, ‘I noticed you looked at your watch. What’s going through your mind?’

John said: “I like what Rob’s offering but I know cash flow is tight this week but we are expecting a large payment in a few days time … so I was checking the date calendar! But I’m confused. I don’t think Rob wants to sell to me anymore.”

John is checking the calendar function on his watch to make a buying decision based on the date of when cash is due in. He wants to buy but he imagined Rob went cold on the presentation and doesn’t want to sell anymore.

See, what John saw was a sales person presenting enthusiastically and then suddenly start to wind down. And he added meaning to that situation too!  And Rob saw John look at his watch and he inferred that John wasn’t interested. So he decided to wrap up his pitch. And he started to!

This is how it works.

  • Something happens. Keep it simple. John looked at his watch.
  • We add meaning. ‘He’s bored. He’s not interested. He’s lost interest. He has to be somewhere else.’
  • We decide something. “John’s not interested. He’s not going to buy. I may as well finish now.’
  • We do something. We stop selling.

Interestingly, paramedics are trained to ignore their initial reactions. For example, they know accident scenes will be shocking to some degree. They imagine the worst. They might decide they want to be as far away from the accident scene as possible. But what do they do? They follow their training. They perform a medical procedure. They save a life.

Even though they have decided it will be awful they do what is needed and appropriate.

Rob’s training was to present a sales pitch to a prospect. When John looked at his watch Rob imagined that John wasn’t interested … and decided to stop the presentation … and in fact started to finish the presentation. So he ignored all his training.

The solution often is to simply call it as you see it. “John I noticed you looked at your watch.’

Calling it how they see it is the stock in trade response for therapists and counsellors, for example. “Bill I noticed you clenched your fists when you were talking about your boss. Jane I noticed you were saying ‘Yes’ but you were shaking your head as if to disagree.”


Reread the last two days carefully. This is such a common daily issue with coaching clients – adding meaning. You are asked to slow down and behave counter-intuitively. Think about any examples where you have added meaning and how that changed your behaviour.

Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through www.andrewpriestley.com

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It goes without saying that this is for information only and The Author  cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material.

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

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