Coaching Leadership

The Reframer

It’s time to make a decision. The meeting is scheduled, the agenda and pre-reading sent out well ahead of time. You sit down, do some introductions and dive in. You outline the problem, highlight the known constraints and list the options that are available to decide between.

Before you get any further, you are hit by the Reframer, a particularly specific weaponiser of the “What’s the problem?” question.

They challenge the framing of the problem, with the goal of either claiming it’s not something worth solving, or inserting their own favoured option into the pile to consider. It’s usually not a data-driven interjection, instead they “don’t believe” something, or don’t recognise it as something they’ve experienced.

You’ve got to stop the Reframer as swiftly as possible. Otherwise they’ll derail this meeting, drag you back to an earlier time and prevent any progress from being made.

To keep moving forwards, apply the following approach:

  1. Thank them for the contribution
  2. Note that the concern has been covered in pre-reading or is out of scope of the current conversation
  3. Offer to return to the issue later if it’s not settled in the ongoing conversation
  4. Move on to your next planned step

Depending on the exact attempt at reframing, you might need to go heavier at one point or another to be able to move on. If the concern is covered in previously provided data, then highlight that. If it’s totally separated from the decision to be made, then make the offer to return very light.

If the Reframer won’t let it go, then put it in the Parking Lot. Write down whatever they raised, put it somewhere visible and record it in meeting notes. If all they want is to be heard, then doing this will help keep you moving.

Don’t let Reframers drag you back, but keep on track and get to the decision you need to make.


What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

It’s really common to get hung up on optimising a particular metric, rather than thinking about improving the entire system.

I’ve usually seen this where we have a proxy for some desired behaviour that is usually good, but isn’t perfect. The classic e-commerce example is conversion at a particular point in the funnel. Increase this, you get more orders, which is a good thing!

However, some improvements to that number won’t work out overall. If you push more people down the funnel just to have a higher proportion drop out later on, then it’s not an overall benefit.

Even worse, sometimes that proxy metric goes backwards quickly, but it takes a long time to see the impact elsewhere and understand if you’ve got a better overall business.

In a big organisation, it can be tough to get people to look beyond the proxy. The day-to-day is focused on this single metric because that is the one they have scope to move. When the team makes a change, this number is one they have control over.

So, how can you step back a bit and make these overall system improvements?

First up, you need to make sure you are tracking your fundamental success metrics as well as the proxy. Order volume, value and profitability are some of the major ones depending on the stage of the business.

Next, be clear in your hypothesis. “We believe that by showing out of stock items sooner in the funnel, we will increase the number of completed orders, with a reduction in the conversion from basket to checkout”.

Finally, agree what your maximum decrease can look like. “If the reduction in conversion for customers seeing the new experience is more than 2%, then we will end the experiment early”. To get this agreement, you will need to work with all the relevant stakeholders, as this is going to cost money, and you need to agree that the budget to find out if the benefits really outweigh the cost.

Do all of this, and you’ll be able to make improvements to your overall system that negatively impact your imperfect proxy metrics.

Figure out “What’s the worst that can happen?” to step back and make the bigger change..