Your signals are too weak, but here’s how to fix that

When’s the last time you got upset with someone on your team? Was it for not doing what you needed them to do? For not giving you what you wanted? If I had a nickle for every time someone I’m coaching complained about this, I’d have at least a dollar (hey, that’s a lot of nickles!)

Unhappiness about not getting what you wanted from a team member is a common problem, but why?

I’m disappointed in you, Sally

To bring it home, I was recently working with someone unhappy about their team member’s performance. They said ‘Sally’ (come on, you know I can’t tell you who it is!) was not doing what they needed in terms of quality. I of course asked, ‘so how are you telling Sally you’re unhappy and setting expectations’? The response:

  • I mention to them what we might do
  • I leave them to sort it out
  • They don’t do what I asked
  • I show them I’m upset

Ah, $hit.

Notice anything wrong with this? I’ve italicised those things that are problematic. Things like ‘I mention’, ‘we might’, and ‘show them’. These statements are completely and utterly subject to interpretation. They are also incredibly weak signals of expectation.

No wonder Sally isn’t getting it right…or maybe she is getting it as right as possible given your weak sauce signals.

So what do we do?

Asking for what you want

Asking for what we want in life is one of the most difficult things to do. People so rarely do it. Why though?

  1. We are afraid of what it might mean if we actually get what we want
  2. We don’t know how to ask for what we really want
  3. OR we don’t know what we want (but somehow think others will magically figure it out)

Your job as leader is to be incredibly clear on what it is exactly that you want and need from others. If you can’t do that, how the heck does the business stand a chance?

Here is how to ask for exactly what you want and need:

  • Know exactly what you want and ask for that exact thing. If you want Sally to deliver that report by Friday at 2 pm via email using X template, then tell her! Be as specific and clear as you can be.
  • Ask Sally to tell you what she heard. This is so powerful. Getting the person to feed back to you what specifically they heard and will do is critical. It’s amazing the amount of gaps that can occur just in that short space of saying what you want and getting Sally to repeat back what she heard that you want.
  • Once it’s done, tell Sally how she did, how she can do better and what the new ‘want’ is. This has to be an on-going feedback process.

It sounds incredibly simple, but it’s simplicity is what makes this so difficult. Asking for what we want means the possibility of rejection and disappointment. As leaders, that is simply part of the job. It also gets easier as you do it more and more often.

You’ve got this, now make it happen.

Want to binge on more blog bad@ssery?

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