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FORWARD! The Soft Stuff Is the Hard Stuff

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FORWARD! The Soft Stuff Is the Hard Stuff

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We drew impressive lines on charts as we prioritized and came to agreement on what steps to take next to further the vision and mission statements of the Church. This process demanded everyone's active participation. The end product looked great; our three big priorities were to work towards promoting more on the Internet, provide the training for future ministers and commit to improving employee relations.

But there was a statement that our facilitator made that rings in my ears to this day. In the execution phase of the Strategic Plan, which is called the Operation Plan, he pointed out that the hard part would be executing the softer aspects not seen on the charts themselves. As he looked at the overall plan, he said, "The soft stuff is the hard stuff." This has to do with the more subtle and subjective aspects of how people work through fulfilling a plan. This factor can become the difference between success and failure of the entire plan. 

In the classic best seller How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes about different factors that win people over to cooperate and work together. The principles are not rocket science; they are relevant, immediately applicable principles that each one of us can apply right after reading this article.

The principles include not criticizing, condemning or complaining; giving honest, sincere appreciation; being a good listener; talking in terms of the other person's interests; avoiding arguments; and showing respect. It concludes with admitting wrong quickly and emphatically and honestly seeing things from the other person's point of view.

All these concepts have to do with building trusting relationships that all move an organization's mission forward.

A few years ago I spoke with a renowned mediator who said that her clients ranged from her children squabbling over an orange to vice-presidents bringing a corporation down. She told me that in the mediation process one key factor is to determine what is really the issue that causes the conflict, which are often the things that they are too embarrassed to talk about.

The parties speak in terms of lofty issues, concepts, philosophies and such. But there are factors that really are the core that most are reluctant to admit: disrespect, hurt, jealousy, not being appreciated, not getting credit and marginalization. These are the factors that need to come out and when people acknowledge this along with the lofty factors, movement toward reconciliation takes place.

Can we recognize these principles that really produce harmony? Yes, we can have great plans and strategies, but it's these softer factors that determine success. The soft stuff is the hard stuff, but it's the right stuff to make the difference. UN