Several years ago I was coaching an executive sales team. During the meeting, someone brought up 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 a couple of months later when one of the directors walked into the room before the meeting began and threw a huge three-ringed binder on the conference table as he exclaimed, “Here it is.” “Here is what?” the VP asked. “The new sales training manual that you requested four months ago,” responded the director. The VP turned bright red and then exclaimed, “I didn’t request a new training manual.”
This is how things go sometimes. We think someone is making a request or we think we know what they want until we find out otherwise.
Here are 10 tips for making sure that your people give you what you want every time.
- Give clear directions. This means you have to think specifically about what you want before you give directions or an assignment. If you don’t know what you want someone to do, then what you ask people to do will lack the degree of detail which will allow them to give you what you want. Check in with them to see if they have clearly understood your instructions. Don’t assume anything.
- Identify guidelines for success. Everyone seems to define success in different ways. If you take the time to establish guidelines for success, they will follow them with precision and create the outcome that you desire.
- Document clear processes. Anytime you can define frequently repeated tasks, you will ensure that those tasks are always completed in the manner that is expected. People will also feel more confident that they are doing what is required.
- Identify the needed resources. It is essential to spend time identifying the equipment, time, material, and support that is 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, then take the time to explore and help people get whatever resources are absolutely essential to their success. Taking a moment to listen to what people think they need compared with what you think they need can be quite revealing.
- Invite input from the person. Sometimes people know more about what will work and what won’t work than you do. Asking for a person’s input about what you are trying to achieve may surprise you. Ask questions to solicit their input about what they feel is the best way to complete the assignment or project. Don’t get defensive if their ideas are different than yours. Explore their thinking, look for evidence that supports their perspective, and don’t hesitate to ask for their ideas about how to more successfully achieve the desired goals. If you don’t agree with their perspective, thank them for their ideas, openness, and candor. In the future continue to look for other opportunities to solicit their input. Over time, such behavior will create respect for you and value for the individual.
- Be supportive. When things are not going well, individuals may be afraid to approach you with bad news. 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 help them move forward. Finally, when they succeed, look for opportunities to celebrate and recognize their efforts.
- Jump in and help when needed. This doesn’t mean that you will do a person’s work for them, but it does mean when a crisis arises, people love a leader who is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and 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.
- Allow for autonomy. No one likes a micromanager. Micromanaging someone sends the message that you don’t trust them to do their work. Sometimes managers are afraid to relinquish control in certain situations. If you tend to micromanage, then you had better find out why. Review the foregoing points to try to determine where things go awry and don’t be afraid to explore with the individual their lack of ability if their performance is falling short of your expectations. When you can surface and understand the barrier to their success, then you can deal with it in an appropriate way.
- Explore what didn’t work and why. When things don’t work out as planned or the results are less than desirable, you want to explore all the factors that contributed to the lack of success. You might begin by asking yourself what you could do that would increase success. You also might try asking the individual what they could do differently next time. This allows you to identify where barriers emerged and helps them to learn the problem solving skills that will make them a better contributor and future leader.
- Get to know your people. People adore a leader who is personally interested in them. Knowing your people helps to establish trust. Trust leads to loyalty which enhances an individual’s discretionary effort, the effort that people expend above and beyond what is required to do their job.
If you are not achieving the results you want, the first place to start in trying to understand the source of your lack of results is by looking at yourself and how your behavior may contribute to what you are getting. Heightening your awareness of your contribution and making needed changes will help you to avoid surprises and lessen the likelihood of getting something that you didn’t want.