Growing up I always wondered what went on in pro football locker rooms at halftime. Did the coaches scream, beg, threaten? Did the players have their say? What exactly was done to motivate and coach during halftime?

I’m often asked in the ‘game’ of employment, what goes on in the human resource office behind closed doors? During 19 years as the HR director of a multi-media company, one particular HR office chat topic presented itself more than any other. As in many workplaces, departments and managers were competing with multiple agendas, egos and strong opinions in a stressful, deadline-driven workplace. The ultimate topic for discussion in the HR office I refer to as “The Softer Side of Sears.”

When meeting with passionate albeit sometimes over-zealous employees, some with egos that exceeded a super-sized, jumbo, caffeinated drink, 9 times out of 10 they were arguing and complaining about a colleague who refused to listen or back down and, shock of shocks, refused to change. Of course, it was ALWAYS the other co-worker’s fault, despite the evident stubborn streak sitting across my desk.

Oft’ times, as the employee ranted in my office, our dialogue went something like this:

ME: “When you think of Sears, what is the first thing that comes to mind?”

EE: “Tools and appliances!”

ME: “Right! Any tools in particular?”

EE: “Well, yeah….power tools, Craftsman drills, electric saws, lawn mowers.”

ME: “Do you recall a campaign that Sears introduced years back (1993) depicting “The Softer Side of Sears?”

EE: “Now that you mention it, yeah!” Or, with young employees: Nope! Never heard of it!”

ME: “Sears advertised Winnie the Pooh pajamas, crib sheets, women’s bathrobes, lingerie. It was the company’s attempt to attract female shoppers to shop and purchase from other areas and merchandise lines in the store.”

I went on to explain that Sears was target marketing to women, the primary decision makers and family purchasing agents. The ad campaign did not negate Sears’ hardline merchandise, but offered a compelling reason to consider other products. One print ad pictured a Sears battery and the words, “I came in for a DieHard, and I left with something drop dead,” (an alluring black evening dress).

If you approach conflict and disagreement as a Sears power tool in shrill attack mode, it’s not likely to do the job you intended. Ultimately, the participants end up looking foolish as if in a stand-off old-fashioned duel, power tools in hand, sometimes in the HR office or, ultimately in some cases, the unemployment line.

Your Type A personality and aggressive methodology may have all the force and tact of a Mack truck. But if you plan to appeal to the other side, persuade and win someone over, you must change your approach, find your softer side and lead with it. You may not succeed, but you will, at the very least, be heard. Consider your personal style as you reflect upon a few of Sears examples from the ‘90’s:

“My husband wanted a hammer … but I found something with more impact,” (a slinky black dress).

“I went in for a lamp, but I found an even better way to light up the room,” (a bright-colored dress).

“My husband swears by submersible pumps … but I prefer the suede ones,” (shoes).

It was a great campaign. Every ad readily acknowledged what Sears was known for, while gently, yet poignantly guiding the customer with a softer approach to consider other alternatives concluding with that memorable invitation,
“Come see the softer side of Sears.”

Just imagine how far you can get if you lead with yours!

~From the desk of Becky Morlok~

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