The Devil’s Advocate

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um-021114-emailI have been told recently by people I love and work with that I bring out the devil’s advocate in them!

One of my closest colleagues told me the story of how the devil’s advocate came to be. When the Vatican proposed someone to sainthood, they also chose a devil’s advocate to poke holes in the candidate’s life and accomplishments, to ensure that his or her sainthood was deserved and accurately portrayed.

I never considered that when I speak about some people it sounds like I’m proposing their sainthood, but I do extol their virtues, praise their achievements, and may not look closely enough at their shortcomings.

It’s a way of being I enjoy … optimism, kindness, and love. On the other hand when you’re developing a person, team or organization, virtues need to be balanced with truth, facts, and relevance to winning the game.

Think about the distinction between a conversation that’s loose on the details, and a conversation based on the facts of the matter. How do the people in your life react to what’s missing? If they’re interested they lean in, and ask questions.

When waxing sainthood on a person or situation, be prepared for the question, “What’s your evidence for that?” Then respond with details, and have actuals, rather than projections. And if you have projections, be ready to show what they’re based on.

Here’s how to prepare for a round with the devil’s advocate.

  1. Show the facts. What happened, where it happened, and when it happened.
  2. Show the results. What got produced in what time frame?
  3. Show a comparison. What’s the % up (or down) to what’s been accomplished previously?
  4. Tell your conclusion based on the facts, or you could just let the facts speak for themselves!

Three parts show, one part tell. For sainthood, #3 could be how many people converted or left the fold!

Equal parts truth and love shape conversations for maximum effect. Shorting either imbalances a dialogue, whether it’s corrective feedback or casual conversation. If you want people to believe what you say, replace your rose colored glasses with appreciation for keen perception.

My love goes with you as you work with this Uplifting Moment.

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