Several years ago I was coaching an executive sales team. During the meeting, someone brought up the fact that the salespeople in the field were struggling. The VP of sales said something like, “I have been meaning to address that for some time. We really do need to do a better job of training our people.”
I was present again, a couple of months later, when one of the directors walked into the room before the meeting and threw a thick, three-ringed binder onto the conference table and said, “Here it is.”
“Here is what?” the VP of sales asked, perplexed.
“The new sales training manual that you requested four months ago,” the director responded.
The VP turned bright red. He then exclaimed, “I didn’t ask for a new sales training manual! No wonder the sales in your region are down!”
This is how things go sometimes. We think someone is making a request, so we act on our assumptions. Or we are sure we know what this person wants until we have fulfilled the request -- or think we have -- and then find out otherwise.
Don't let that happen to you. Here are 10 tips for making sure that your people give you what you want every time.
1. Give clear directions.
Think specifically about what you want before you give directions or make an assignment. If you don’t know what you want someone to do, then what you ask will lack the degree of detail to get you what you want. Check in with your listener to see if he or she has clearly understood your instructions. Don’t assume anything.
2. Identify guidelines for success.
Everyone wants to know what success looks like. Unfortunately everyone defines it differently. If you take the time to establish your guidelines for success, your employees will follow them with precision and create the outcome you desire.
3. Document clear processes.
Any time you can define frequently repeated tasks, you will ensure that those tasks are always completed in the manner expected. People will also feel more confident that they are doing what is required.
4. Identify the needed resources.
It's essential to spend time in identifying the equipment, time, material and support needed to complete a project by the deadline. If you don’t want anything to get in the way of the success of a project, take the time to explore what resources are absolutely essential to be successful, and help people get what they need to complete the task. It's also important to ask people what they need to move the project toward completion because sometimes what is needed hasn't been anticipated -- and, of course, needs change.
5. Invite input.
Sometimes people know more about what will work and what won’t than you do. So ask for a person’s input. Sometimes that feedback will surprise you. Ask employees what they believe is the best way to complete a project or objective. Don’t get defensive if their ideas differ from yours. Explore their thinking and look for evidence that supports their perspective. If you don’t agree, thank them for their ideas, openness and candor, and explain why you believe it would be best to proceed a certain way. In the future look for opportunities to solicit their input. Such behavior will create respect for you and value for each individual’s contribution.
6. Be supportive.
When things are not going well, individuals may be afraid to approach you with bad news. But if you frequently communicate that you want to know about their progress and challenges and that you are always willing to listen, they will feel more comfortable in approaching you when they really need your help. Be sure to encourage them and express your confidence in them and their abilities when they seem unsure about themselves. And when they seem stuck, provide the necessary support they need to move forward. Finally, when they succeed, look for opportunities to celebrate and recognize their efforts.
7. Jump in and help when needed.
This doesn’t mean that you will do people's work for them; it does mean that when crises arise you will help out where needed. People love a leader who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves, jump into the fray and pull together to achieve a common goal. Doing so says that you are just as committed to the objective as you expect them to be.
8. Allow for autonomy.
No one likes a micromanager. Micromanaging sends the message that you don’t trust employees to do their work. If you don’t trust them, then you'd better find out why. Micromanaging may occur not only because the manager doesn’t think the individual has the ability but because the manager is afraid to give up control of a task -- thinking that the individual may fail. Review the foregoing points to determine where things may go awry and don’t be afraid to explore with employees their lack of ability if their performance falls short of your expectations. Once you surface and understand the barriers to their success, you can deal with them in an appropriate way.
9. Explore what doesn’t work and why.
When things don’t work out as planned or the results are less than desirable, you may want to explore all the factors that contributed to the lack of success. You might first look at your own contribution to the lack of success. Then you might ask the individual what he or she learned and what would work better next time. This allows you to identify where barriers emerged and helps the employee learn the problem-solving skills necessary to be a better contributor and future leader.
10. Get to know your people.
People adore a leader who is interested in them and their success. Knowing your people helps to establish trust. Trust leads to loyalty, which in turn enhances an individual’s discretionary effort above and beyond what is required to do the job.
These steps, deliberately applied, will guarantee improved results. If you are not achieving the results you want, start by trying to understand the reaon for your lack of results. Look at yourself and how your behavior may contribute. Then look to the performance of the individual and solicit his or her input to increase your perspective. Heightening your awareness and understanding of the work process and making needed changes will help you to avoid surprises and lessen the likelihood of getting something that you didn’t want.