Monthly Archives: January 2014

Assume the Beast

31 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

As the leader, you focus on seeing the best and acknowledging the strengths in each of the people on your team.  At that same time, you also have to realize that they each have weaknesses, challenges, and things they are not good at. When someone on your team does something that is irresponsible or inappropriate, make sure you respond after you separate their intentions from impact they have.  

Just because they messed up on a process, does not mean they were not focused, didn’t care, or were not paying attention to what is important. They may have a weakness in their skill set that caused them to make that error, despite their best intentions.

Knowing the weaknesses of each of your team members will allow you to coach them to improved performance instead of solely being disappointed with their mistake. If someone is a perfectionist with little tact, you need to coach them on how to be more effective, instead of being frustrated and disappointed in their lack of tact.

When you “assume the beast”, you acknowledge that even good employees have areas where they are weak, and you must assume their very best intentions despite their mistakes.

Are they complaining because they are unhappy with you? Or are they complaining to cover up their lack of confidence, and frustration with the situation? As a leader, your assumption about why they are doing what they are doing has a significant impact on not only your reaction to them, but your desire and ability to coach them ongoing to improve performance.

When you find yourself frustrated with what one of your employees has done, take a moment of Opportunity Space before you respond to think about the weaknesses that person has, empathize with their struggles and coach them through that part of who they are to greater levels of performance and success.

The Honest Fallacy of Yes/No Questions

20 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

Questions like, “Do you understand?”  “Does that make sense?” and “Will you do that for me?” elicit responses that may have the best intentions, but may not be correct.

When you delegate or assign a task or project, whether it is to a colleague or employee on your team, the final step is to test that they understand what you have described.  The best way to do that is to ask them questions to ensure they are ready to move forward, like questions about what they will do first, what they see as the main components, and conversation about timelines and project steps.

However, what many busy people do instead is explain ‘very clearly’ what needs to be done, twice if necessary, and then ask a question like:  “Does that make sense?” to which most people will respond, “Yes.”

And the problem with that is….?

  1. They may think they understand, but the journey from your head to your mouth is long enough, let alone the distance to their ears and their mind!  Things get lost along the way.
  2. They may have received too much information and need to go process, so they need to tell you “yes” so you let them go and start working on it.
  3. They know what they will do, whether or not it is exactly what you have asked.

And these things are usually done with the best of intentions.

But, that is the problem with “yes/no” questions.  A “Yes,” like the nod of a head, tells you very little.  People think, process and begin to act based on what they are thinking.  People do the most thinking when they are talking, not when you are.  They way to get them talking about the subject at hand is to ask effective questions.  And the worst question, even for a two-year old is, “Repeat back to me what I just told you.”

So, how do we ask better questions?  First, you must be more curious than you are rushed.

Then, ask questions that force the person to process the information, like:

  • How do you see yourself going about this project/task?
  • What will you do first?
  • How will you determine the first step?
  • What will be the most difficult part?
  • What are you most concerned about?
  • What is a question you have right now?

All this must take into account the fact that there are analytic thinkers in our organizations who need some time to process the information in order to figure out the first step.  In these cases, the conversation does not end with, “Do you understand?” but instead with, “Take 24 hours to think through what we’ve talked about, and let’s get together tomorrow at 10am to discuss your first steps, and so I can answer any questions that have come up since then.”

Yes-No Questions will rarely get you the true picture, despite how honest your team is trying to be!

Managing Your Boss

14 Jan
by Bridget DiCello

Skills are activities you are good at doing, but do not necessarily enjoy.  Strengths energize you, but you may not be extremely good at doing them.  Big difference.  Your success depends on you developing your strengths far more than your skills.

Do you happen to work for a boss who has been promoted based on the skills they have to complete specific tasks, but is still a pain to work with?  Success is based on building upon your strengths, but often promotions are based on skills.  The problem with that… is that there is passion associated with strengths but often not with skills.

Natalie is very good at organizing meetings.  She solicits input from everyone, sends out an agenda prior to the meeting, starts on time, keeps things on track, gets everyone to commit to their action items and ends on time.  The problem is that she is not energized by this process, and no matter how organized she is, and how well she communicates minutes and progress to her superiors, there is no passion for what she is doing.  Becky is the passionate leader who is slightly less organized, may not have complete minutes, and may not catch the attention of corporate with her sometimes “off-the-wall” ideas, but her meetings are full of passion, bring out the best in her team, discover potential and move forward in unique ways.

Do you work for a company that would value Natalie or Becky more?  For which boss do you most enjoy working?  Realizing who your boss most resembles, and pinpointing your preference, is your first step.  Then realize that you also have strengths and skills and that working on things that energize you as often as possible will yield the greatest success, even if that is not a promotion with your current employer.

If you are the boss, move forward from consistency and task completion to passionate pursuit and development of your strengths, and encourage your team to do the same.

By the way, as the employee and a fellow professional, nothing says that you can’t have conversations with your boss about their strengths – things they are passionate about.  Offer to work with them on a project, ask questions about how one of their strengths-related initiatives are going, and work a little harder on those things they are passionate about.  It benefits you in the end if your boss discovers not only success in the form of raise or promotion, but also in discovering their potential as a leader.