The Last 10%

yesssMy friend heads up a small company, has for at least ten years now and it’s been fun to watch her grow in the capacity of being The Boss. She is very diplomatic and non-confrontational, but sometimes when there is a problem she has to confront a service provider or employees and say hard things. In the early years I was working with her, and witnessed some of these sessions. She would plan what she was going to say and then sit down in a meeting and say most of it. Almost all of it. Like 90%. What was missing? The ‘…or else.’

“We like the product you are providing but it takes a long time to get to us.”

“You are good with customers but need to be more careful with the details of your job.”

So sometimes the meeting sounded more like a time of encouragement and suggestion of better behavior. She would leave the meeting believing that things would improve, and then get frustrated when they did not, and maybe eventually change companies or let an employee go because it just wasn’t working out. Over time my friend learned the importance of saying all of it, and communicating the reality of the situation.

“We like the product you are providing but it takes too long to get to us and your competition assures us they can do better. How are you going to fix this problem?”

“You are good with customers but details are also very important. If you cannot focus on the details, we need to find a better fit for you.”

The last 10% can be very uncomfortable to say, but crucial to communicate. When my guy and I are spending time with another couple, and are asked to speak into their marriage, I usually have a lot of words, probably 90%. My guy tends to sit back and listen a lot, and then towards the end of the conversation he speaks up and says the hard thing, the last 10%. And do you know what couples say to us later, the words that resonated with them and helped to propel them to make a change? Yep, his words.

We can believe that we are being kind by only saying most of what needs to be said, but that can also be cowardice. Our relationships deserve honesty, and giving that last 10% can make the difference between a thriving or a disastrous outcome.

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