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Posts Tagged ‘managing people’

Ask Better Clarifying Questions – Stop Being Disappointed at Work

I’m taking golf lessons, which should frighten anyone within 100 feet. Every time the instructor explains something new, he asks me, “Does that make sense?” “Does that make sense” is a common clarifying question that many managers, trainers, and instructors ask, but it’s not a good question for two reasons.

Clarifying Questions

Reason number one: If an explanation doesn’t make sense to me, I’m the idiot for not “getting it.” It’s not that the instructor hasn’t been clear, I just “didn’t get it.”

Reason number two: The question doesn’t force me to speak. “Does that make sense” is like asking a shopper in a store, “Can I help you?” We all know the right answer to that question is, “No, I’m just looking.” This is a similar to when someone asks, “Are there any questions?” The right answer is “no.” And when people say “no,” the person who asked the question often says, “good,” affirming people for not asking questions and making it less likely that questions will be asked in the future.

Here are some clarifying questions that will force people to talk and won’t make them feel stupid for asking questions. Instead of asking, “Does that make sense,” consider asking:

  • So I know I’ve been clear, tell me what you heard me say.

** This may sound harsh and like micromanaging in writing, but the questions can be asked in a supportive and non-judgmental manner.

  • Just so I know how I landed, what do you think I’m asking/expecting you to do?
  • What do you think you need to do?
  • What are you planning to do?

I was talking with one of my clients a few months ago. She was very upset because she told one of her employees what to do and he didn’t do it. Frustrated, she said, “He knew what to do, and he didn’t do it.” I asked her, “How do you know that he knew what to do?” She replied, “I told him what to do and when I asked if he had any questions, he said no.”

Her situation is a common one. The right answer to “Do you have any questions” is “no.” And we’re surprised when we swing by the person’s desk two weeks later to get a status update on the project, and he hasn’t started working on it yet.

Here are some additional examples of clarifying questions and delegation questions. These questions will force people to speak, providing a clearer sense of what people know and are likely to do.

  • What questions do you have?
  • What are you planning to do first? If the person answers this question appropriately, ask what he is planning to do next. If he doesn’t answer the question appropriately, step in and give more direction.

Provided you trust that the person knows what to do, give a tight deadline and ask to review the person’s work in a few days. Give people some freedom, but not enough to waste a lot of time and go down a fruitless path. Delegation is something few managers do well and the root of many missed deadlines and frustrations in the workplace.

The golf instructor should be asking me:

  • What did you learn today?
  • What are you planning to do as a result of what we’ve covered?
  • What techniques did I ask you to follow?
  • Let me see how that form looks?
  • What questions do you have for me?

If he asks me these clarifying questions and forces me to do the things he is asking me to do, he will know what I know and am likely to do on the golf course. All he knows right now is that I’m poking fun of him in a blog post.

 


Giving Feedback Requires Trust. No Trust, No Feedback.

When I led leadership development training for a large mutual fund company we offered a lot of training focused on helping people have hard conversations. Over time I realized that despite that I’d bought and offered the best training programs I could find, the training wasn’t helping. Managers didn’t give enough feedback, and when they did give feedback, employees were often left confused, wondering what they needed to do differently.

I decided that what was missing was the conversation before the crucial conversation. It wasn’t that managers didn’t know what they wanted to say, but many managers felt they couldn’t say what they wanted to say. There wasn’t sufficient safety or permission for giving feedback, so managers said little or delivered messages that were so vague, employees were left wondering if there was a problem. This is when the idea for Candid Culture was born.

If you’re struggling with giving feedback, I doubt it’s the message that’s the challenge. The distinction between being able to tell the truth (as you see it) and saying nothing, is the quality of your relationship.

Think about the people – personal and professional – who can say anything to you. These are the people who can tell you that the person you’re dating is wrong for you, that a piece of clothing is not flattering, that you disappointed them, or that you dropped the ball. You may not enjoy getting the feedback, but you’re able to hear what they have to say and take it in because you know they care about you and have your best interests at heart. You trust their motives. When you trust people’s motives, they can say anything to you. When you don’t trust people’s motives, there is little they can say.

If you’re struggling to give feedback, evaluate your relationship by asking these three questions:

  1. Does this person know that I have her back under any circumstances?
  2. Does this person trust me?
  3. Does this person know that I accept her just as she is?

If the answer to any of the questions above is no, it’s not giving feedback you’re struggling with, it’s the quality of your relationship. Work on building trust with this person and you’ll be able to say whatever you feel you need to say.

Here are five steps to building trusting relationships:

  1. Get to know people better than you know them now. Get five free conversation-starting Candor Questions to have these conversations.
  2. Tell people you want them to succeed and demonstrate that by being supportive of their efforts.
  3. Don’t be judgy. No one likes to be told that she is wrong.
  4. Set the expectation that you will give both positive and negative feedback when appropriate, because you want the person to win. And if you remain silent, you are of no help to the other person.
  5. When you deliver feedback, be extremely specific. Feedback that is specific will be received much better than vague feedback, which is typically judgmental.

When people know that you respect and want good things for them, you have a great deal of freedom to speak up. When people don’t trust your motives, giving feedback is almost impossible. The recipient will become defensive and dismiss whatever you say, rationalizing that you don’t like her and never have.

Worry less about giving feedback – for now. Instead, build trust. Get to know people better, then work on giving feedback.


Giving Feedback Requires Trust. No Trust. No Feedback.

When I led leadership development training for a large mutual fund company we offered a lot of training focused on helping people have hard conversations. Over time I realized that despite that I’d bought and offered the best training programs I could find, the training wasn’t helping. Managers didn’t give enough feedback and when they did give feedback, employees were often left confused, wondering what they needed to do differently.

I decided that what was missing was the conversation before the crucial conversation.  It wasn’t that managers didn’t know what they wanted to say, many managers felt they couldn’t say what they wanted to say. There wasn’t sufficient safety or permission for giving feedback, so managers said little or delivered messages that were so vague, employees were left wondering if there was a problem. This is when the idea for Candid Culture was born.

Giving FeedbackIf you’re struggling with giving feedback, I doubt it’s the message that’s the challenge. The distinction between being able to tell the truth (as you see it) and saying nothing, is the quality of your relationship.

Think about the people – personal and professional – who can say anything to you. These are the people who can tell you that the person you’re dating is wrong for you, that a piece of clothing is not flattering, that you disappointed them, or dropped the ball. You may not enjoy getting the feedback, but you’re able to hear what they have to say and take it in, because you know they care about you and have your best interests at heart. You trust their motives. When you trust people’s motives, they can say anything to you. When you don’t trust people’s motives, there is little they can say.

If you’re struggling to give feedback, evaluate your relationship by asking these three questions:

  1. Does this person know that I have her back under any circumstances?
  2. Does this person trust me?
  3. Does this person know that I accept her just as she is?

If the answer to any of the questions above is no, it’s not giving feedback you’re struggling with, it’s the quality of your relationship. Work on building trust with this person and you’ll be able to say whatever you feel you need to say.

Here are five steps to building trusting relationships:

  1. Get to know people better than you know them now. Download free conversation-starting Candor Questions to have these conversations.
  2. Tell people you want them to succeed and demonstrate that by being supportive of their efforts.
  3. Don’t be judgy. No one likes to be told that she is wrong.
  4. Set the expectation that you will give both positive and negative feedback when appropriate, because you want the person to win. And if you remain silent, you are of no help to the other person.
  5. When you deliver feedback, be extremely specific. Feedback that is specific will be received much better than vague feedback, which is typically judgmental.

When people know that you respect and want good things for them, you have a great deal of freedom to speak up. When people don’t trust your motives, giving feedback is almost impossible. The recipient will become defensive and dismiss whatever you say, rationalizing that you don’t like her and never have.

Worry less about giving feedback –for now. Instead, build trust. Get to know people better, then work on giving feedback.

Giving Feedback


Set Expectations That Are Clear and Manage People Well

Set ExpectationsGiving negative feedback is hard. Asking for what you want will always be easier.

Set Expectations That Are Clear

We have all worked hard on a project, only to find out that what we created is not what our manager was expecting. When this happens, everyone is frustrated. Managers question whether or not employees listen. Employees wonder why managers who want something specific didn’t just say so when the work was assigned.

Managers would be well served by setting clear expectations at the beginning of working relationships and projects. Tell your employees what a good job looks like. Don’t make them guess.

If you want a weekly status update, tell employees that rather than being frustrated when you don’t know where projects stand. If you want a bulleted summary, tell people that rather than being annoyed when five paragraphs land in your inbox. If you envision a report with tables and charts, tell employees that versus being disappointed when they create a bulleted list.

Most of us assume people will do things the way we do. They won’t. Save time and reduce frustration by being crystal clear when you set expectations at the beginning of anything new.

When people see the title of my book How to Say Anything to Anyone, they think it’s a book about giving feedback and having difficult conversations. It’s not. How to Say Anything to Anyone is about asking more questions, so you know what your direct supervisor, coworkers, and customers need and don’t have to guess. How to Say Anything to Anyone is not about giving people bad news. It is about asking for what you want before challenges occur, and then talking about how you’ll deal with challenges when they arise.

If you work for someone who does not set expectations that are clear, then you, the employee, needs to set those expectations.

Set expectations by asking your manager:

• When do you want to see this, in what format, with how much detail?
• What does a good job look like?
• What’s your expectation of how this should look when it’s complete?
• Where does this fit, as a priority, in relation to other projects?
• How does this project fit into the department’s or organization’s goals?

Asking questions and telling people what you want is always easier than giving negative feedback. Everyone – employees and managers alike – are accountable for ensuring that the set expectations are clear and that work is done right the first time Ask more. Assume less.

Download the five questions managers must ask their employees to set expectations that are clear:ManagingQ


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