To empower others, you must take their measurements regularly…
Post 1 of 3: Dennis, Tanya and Josh – are managers for different companies and try to meet monthly for lunch. They have found the lunches to be safe times to discuss and get honest input on leadership challenges they face in their work. A few months ago Dennis, who leads a group that does specialized work, was amazed at how much initiative was sparked when he started more two-way conversations with his employees about their actual work.
“Dennis, this is the second month you’ve been late!” Josh said as his friend rushed into the restaurant. “You are always early – even in high school – we always knew you’d be the one waiting for everyone else.” He was teasing but also was a little curious.
“It’s your fault!” Dennis pointed to his friends, “These chats with my guys have gotten out of hand…. Now that they are showing creativity, they want to learn more, and it’s eating up my time!”
Tanya laughed, “That’s great that they are responding. Is that initiative reflected in their performance and your bottom line?”
“It’s making enough of a difference for me to keep doing it, but they are getting freer with interrupting to ask for my help. I found some great videos and a few other resources that they can use to look up some basics on the topics they’ve asked about. I even learned some things from some tips on handling our kind of clients… and I have a place where they can reference the learning resources in the site trailer if they need to look something up on the job – but they still seem hesitant to do it on their own. They would rather take my time!”
“That’s pretty normal, Dennis.” Josh shared, “I’ve found people want you to know about their efforts, but you do have to learn to manage the conversations. Give us a few examples of how the conversations go when they come to you for help or when you are suggesting how they can learn something.”
Tanya smiled with an idea after Dennis had shared a few situations. “I think you’re doing great, and… ready for the next step. Josh, why don’t you tell him about monkeys?”
“Monkeys?” Dennis confirmed what he thought he heard.
Josh explained, “Oh, you know that old adage of having ‘a monkey on your back’…. Blanchard wrote a book about how we leaders allow others to bring us their problems, their monkeys, and then we take on the burden of solving them. Of course it’s better for our employees to solve many of those themselves, but it can be a challenge for us to learn to refuse the monkeys and set expectations for the employee to solve them without either of us feeling like we are ignoring their need.”
“Take the situation where Jeff asked you for ideas on how to say ‘no’ to the client that asked for another change.” Tonya added, “You took the monkey and lost 30 minutes by sitting down to brainstorm suggestions. You could have left the monkey with him by reminding him of those resources in the site trailer and asking him to review those and then talk to you about his best suggestions to his specific challenge. You of course would still need to talk to him, but the difference is that you get to schedule and control the time, and it is probably going to take less of your time because he likely will have a solution.”
Dennis sat back from the table. “That is brilliant. And I’ll bet, if they use those resources once, it’s more likely that they’ll use them again on their own!” Tonya and Josh both nodded.
Josh suggested that Dennis give them an update on his monkey problem at next month’s lunch, “We can share other ways to make these conversations even more effective then. But today I want to hear about Tonya’s new boss…. How about it? What’s he like?”
Reality: Giving communication time to employees is becoming more critical for managers who are responsible for performance and results. This reality requires managers to prioritize and craft their employee interactions with much more awareness than even a few years ago. The silver lining is that more people seem willing to guide their own career journeys if they are given support and direction.
FOLLOW US & don’t miss the next PEPPERBOX blog: What other ideas will Dennis get for engaging employees in performance-impacting communication? Will they require more time or less time?!