Most of us love to speak in generalities. For instance, we might say that we want our team to be ‘more effective’ or we want our employees to be ‘more engaged,’ or we want our relationship with our boss to be ‘more comfortable.’
Well, that’s nice. It’s certainly understandable to want to be more effective, more engaged, or more comfortable. But the question is, what does that really mean? What are your specific goals around these, and what behaviors do you want to see change that would lead to these goals? Let’s take one of these examples – the engagement one. If you say you want your employees to be more engaged, what would you really like to see happen? What would engagement look like to you? How would you know they were engaged? How could you measure it? What would the difference be versus now? And do you mean you want all employees to be more engaged, or are some well engaged already, and you want to target specific others?
Keep in mind, that we are all individuals, and the best way to get people ‘engaged’ is on a personal level – what motivates that individual and how can management help them succeed and feel valued? What specific behavior would you want that individual to start doing that would make you say they are more engaged? Do they need help to start doing this? What help?
Let’s take the case of Nicky. Her manager thought she wasn’t engaged because she was showing up late for her weekly team meetings. After a discussion with her about it, her manager found out that she was showing up late because she thought the first part of the meeting didn’t really concern her, and would be a waste of her time to attend. Through this discussion, the manager was able to clarify that the expectation was for her to be there for the whole meeting and that even if the first part didn’t impact her directly, her thoughts on the work that the rest of the team was doing was valuable. He let her know he and the other team members respected her perspective, and the team needed her to be there to share it. Nicky started showing up on time to the weekly meetings. Although the manager wanted Nicky to be ‘more engaged,’ the specific behavior he really wanted was to have her show up on time at the meetings. Mission accomplished!
Another example. Ken thought his boss was micromanaging him. When I asked him what this meant, he told me that his boss was checking over his work all the time and revising his plans. I asked him what he would like his boss to do instead of this, and he told me he wanted his boss to trust him more. When I asked him what trust would mean – how would he know that the boss trusted him more – he said he would know it when the boss reviewed his work less. When I asked what ‘less’ meant, he said he would like the boss to review his work no more than two times a month versus daily. Ah, now we finally had a specific behavior he wanted his boss to do differently! So now I could help Ken figure out how to work with his manager to influence this new behavior.
Through our choices, the more specific we can get in what we want, the more likely we are to get it.
Wishing you a lifetime of great choices!
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