Do you find yourself in circular conversations with your employees? And no matter how you try to clarify your communication, you keep finding yourself back in the circle?
It usually starts with a simple request. You have an employee who is smart and capable. You ask him to take on an initiative or create a strategy. He nods his head, agrees to a timeline and says he will give you regular updates about his progress.
What follows is pretty much radio silence.
So a week later, you call him into your office to “check in.”
And you find one of these options:
Frozen and Confused: He didn’t completely understand what he was supposed to do and instead of asking, just started focusing on something else.
Smartest guy in the room: After thinking it through, he doesn’t think the strategy or initiative you put forward makes a lot of sense so is putting together another idea to talk to you about.
Would rather stay at his desk, thank you: He thought you would come ask him when you wanted updates.
Relying on telepathy: He thought you would know how it was going… because of that quick conversation you had in the hall the other day while you were running to an appointment and on the phone with a colleague.
And because you endeavor to be a good manager, you have another conversation. You re-align and clarify. You request a new commitment including a timeline. But inside you can’t help but think “Why is this happening? Why do I have to explain the simplest things?”
It’s kind of like being on the Teacups at Disneyland when the ride operator falls asleep at the switch. You go around and around with little hope of stopping anytime soon.
And when you begin to get a little nauseous, you have another conversation – an attempt to slow the cups down. You shout at the operator to wake him up. You grab on to another cup as it twirls by in hopes of grinding the whole machine to a stop. In desperation, you might even stick your foot out to see if you can just stop your cup long enough to make an escape.
Nothing seems to work. And the circles continue, as do the conversations. The circular conversation isn’t helping you or your employee. Time to try something different?
Coach Me Quick tips for getting out of the circle and back on solid ground:
- Reduce “why” questions like “Why is this happening?” or “Why doesn’t he understand?” Instead, ask “what” questions. “What would make this situation better” or “What can I do to make a positive impact?” “Why” questions lead us to the past which cannot be changed. A “what” question leads us to solutions.
- Be honest. Tell your employee that you are confused and disappointed by his lack of understanding. Share your frustration in a responsible and professional manner. Request honesty in return.
- Let go of thinking your employee “should” behave, think or work differently. He doesn’t. And thinking he “should” change is a waste of time. If this employee does not change, are there benefits to having him continue to work for you? Be honest with yourself.
- Once you clarify your expectations and they are not being met, ask your employee what he thinks your expectations are. You may be surprised to learn what he is thinking.
- Beware of comparing your employee to yourself as in, “When I was starting out, I would never have…” Your employee is not you and his perspective of the world is probably different. This can be a bonus for you, but only if you can find a way to make it work within the structure of your business, team, department and company goals.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. What strategies have you used successfully?
Here’s to getting out of the Teacups as fast as possible:)