They Won’t Listen!

Unhappy Business PeopleI frequently hear people complain that the boss, colleague, or client…

  • Won’t listen to the facts
  • Is paralyzed by fear of the economy
  • Is paralyzed by fear of their boss
  • Can’t make a decision
  • Keeps changing their mind

These so-called, “decision makers” are clearly in charge.  They are leading and everyone else in the business deal is following that lead, no matter how bad, and often complaining the entire time!

Now, if you are of the school that says “the customer is always right” (or the corresponding “boss is always right”) then I have two questions for you.

1.  If you really believe that the customer (or boss) is always right, then there really isn’t anything to complain about.  After all, you just agreed they are right!

2.  If you and this “decision maker” are stranded on an island and only one of you can be rescued (and the other will die), do you let them choose?  Always?  Really?  After all, they are always right!

I think a bit differently.  I submit that some clients, bosses and colleagues are in need of our help.  Others are not (or not yet).

The thing to realize is this:

  • Some “decision makers” are in need of help but don’t realize and accept it.
  • Other “decision makers” are not ready for help but may think they are ready.

It is this last group (those that think they are ready but really are not) that can lead you all around the world, having you jump through endless hoops, IF YOU LET THEM.  And if you won’t lead them, they will lead you on this journey all the way back to where you started (and without a deal, project or decision).

As a professional, it is incumbent on you to politely, professionally and efficiently ask enough questions all through the process to determine which people are ready for your help and which are not.

If they are not ready, help them understand that and move along.  You can begin building a relationship as a trusted adviser even though good deals or projects may be weeks or months away.  Spend your time appropriately with that in mind.  Sometimes, moving on to the next opportunity may even be better than continuing to invest in this possible opportunity.

Notice I said “ask enough questions.”   I did NOT say “demand they do things your way.”   There is a big difference.

I see many people attempt to lead by demanding action, response, and reaction.  These same people then brag about how their demanding process weeds out customers or employees that are not serious.  Well, maybe.  Sometimes.

“If they won’t come to my office to review my process first, I know they are not really serious.”

“If they don’t have a prequalification letter, I never waste my sales time on these looky-loos.”

I say this demanding process also weeds out good customers that want to be professionally led through the appropriate process for them (and that know the difference in leadership and someone just being a bully).   Don’t you want these customers?

Whether this is work internal to your company or with potential clients, think about it from a customer perspective.  As a customer, which do you want:

Someone that waits for you (the customer or employee) to drive each step of the process? 

Someone that does not understand your needs but is sure they have what you need if you’ll do as they say?

Someone that works to understand your needs, then coaches and guides you? 

If you were a customer, would you hire you? 

And if you did hire you, can you deliver “a deal” or “the RIGHT deal?”


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.