We managers can get ourselves into far too many situations where we unwittingly set others up for disappointment because we haven’t learned to finish our conversations well.
Last week I encouraged you to add The Daily Five Minutes (D5M for short) to your management toolbox because it creates more workplace conversations. The intention of the D5M is to give your staff the gift of your attention, five minutes on a recurring basis where you listen well, truly focusing on getting to know them better, and engaging them in dynamic conversations.
This week, I want you to consider how you wrap it up: How do you finish those conversations? Do you both walk away from each other with a clear understanding of who will do what about whatever you’ve just talked about — and when?
Too often, managers use “safe” sentences so they don’t make promises they can’t keep. They’ll say things like, “thank you for letting me know,” or “that’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of that,” or “yes, I see what you mean” clueless to the possibility that they’ve given the other person the impression they now own the information and will do something about it. But what? And do they own the issue, or do they think they’ve skirted it?
Skirting issues and playing it safe is for wimps. Great managers rise above those tactics because they seek to get stuff done. However, that doesn’t mean that they own everything they’ve been told either. They’re clear. They’re clear on what they will do, and what they will not do, and why.
You can’t fix everything, and you know that you can’t, but you also cannot assume that the person you’re talking to understands that too. As a conversation ends, if you aren’t clear on what you’ll do with your new tidbit of information, you could be giving an employee the impression you will fix it (whatever “it” is), especially when they’re assuming it is in your power to do so. After all, you are the manager, and isn’t that what managers do?
Maybe so, however great managers do with their staff, they don’t necessarily do for. They work with employees to bring their strengths and talents to full employment, and they try to eliminate all the “I can’t” thinking and other obstacles which stand in the way of engaging performance and optimal productivity. They get employees to be part of solutions as much as possible, coaching their staff to participate in decision-making. Great managers facilitate way more than they expedite. They understand that the quickest way now is not always the fastest way for keeps, nor is it always the best way.
No more vague.
If an employee walks away from your conversation hearing something as vague as “I understand, I’ll give that some thought” you must understand that they are waiting for you to take action. The longer it takes for that action to happen – or heaven help you, you forget about it, or hope the issue goes away on it’s own eventual resolution – the more damaging the hit to your credibility and reputation as a manager who cares and effectively gets things done. The less you get things done, the less employees will talk you, thinking to themselves, “What’s the use?”
Finish conversations well by coming to agreements on what your next actions are, “your” meaning both of you.
Seek partnerships and reach for synergy.
- Clearly state what you plan on doing next with the information you’ve just been given, and if you expect or wish to have that employee participate and remain involved in some way.
- State what your next action will be, and ask for or suggest a next action for them, thereby creating collaboration for resolution between you.
- Ask if they agree, or if they have a better idea (they often will! They’re closer to the problem!)
- Last, set a time when you’ll have a follow-up conversation to update each other; set a date for another D5M.
- Before it arrives, take the action you agreed to take.
- When you have your follow-up conversation, speak of another agreement on the next step in the process until the issue has been taken care of.
You’ll walk away with a new partnership, and you’ll be yet another step closer to being a great manager.
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. She fervently believes that work can inspire, and that great managers and leaders can change our lives for the better. Rosa writes for Lifehack.org to freely offer her coaching to those of us who aspire to be greater than we are, for she also believes in us. Writing on What Great Managers Do is one of her favorite topics. You can also visit her on www.managingwithaloha.com.