Why don’t you just meet me in the middle?

One of the most startling realizations I came to, after years of working in a corporate environment, was the dearth of agile marketing firms that also understood business strategy in relation to building an effective campaign. In other words, outside marketers would often sweep in with a solution (and a 48-page powerpoint presentation) without first asking the question:

What is your business trying to achieve through this marketing exercise?

Surprise! It’s not always about sales.

Answers can vary from “we want more leads” to “we need to elevate our brand” to “we have to up our game and appear more competitive.” Not only are these different goals, but they require entirely different strategies and creative thinking. 

One of the most effective techniques I’ve found for crafting a strategic plan that serves up tangible results (Confession: also inspired by this hit pop song—you really can’t get it out of your head once you hear it) is a commitment to asking myself: “How can we meet this client in the middle?” 

More pointedly: What can they give us, what can we give them, and how will those elements lead to a successful engagement? 

Have you ever tried to work with a client (or team member, vendor, partner) that either doesn’t know what they want; or alternatively, is unwilling to compromise? They sit stubbornly on either end of the spectrum, unwilling to offer anything in terms of ideas or flexibility. It’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to achieve effective results if an engagement is lop-sided in one way or the other. And newsflash: Just because someone has hired you for your expertise, doesn’t mean they don’t want to participate in the process.

So how do we really meet people in the middle, without just giving lip service to this whole concept of collaboration? Here’s a good way to approach this idea of finding middle-ground; which, in the end, gives everyone involved a much higher probability of achieving a desirable outcome (not to mention happiness!).

  1. First: Invite the “other side” to provide information and insight on the identified issue/problem. This can come in the form of a simple brain dump or knowledge share. Both parties participate by offering their various perspectives.
  2. Second: Provide an environment where everyone can listen carefully to each side coming to the table. Where do they feel they are lacking? What are their campaign aspirations? What are a few tangible outcomes? What is their definition of success?
  3. Third: Be willing to put your initial reactions on hold until you’ve had some time to digest what’s being said. Then come at a solution with a customized plan that addresses any fears, concerns, or desires—generally in that order.

One-sided conversations or planning in a vacuum never goes well. Neither does unilaterally telling others what to do, with no room for “generous listening,” a term popularized by author Rachel Naomi Remen. And in the wise words of Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey—do yourself and those whom you serve a huge favor:

“Baby, why don’t you just meet me in the middle. I’m losing my mind just a little, so why don’t you just meet me in the middle.”