Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for March, 2010

Ask, Listen, Lead

I’m reminded daily of the importance of listening. It’s not only how I learn about an individual’s or a team’s goals and hopes for outcomes as we work together, but it also offers me so much more. It’s through asking open-ended questions and genuinely listening that I learn how individuals see themselves, how they see the world, and how they view the environment in which they work and live. All of which helps me understand what may motivate or demotivate them, and how I might best engage them and serve as a resource.

If you try to lead others towards a significant goal or change—before learning more about their own motivators and desires—you may be leading them down a road they have no interest in traveling. And it may take a while to figure that out because they may follow you initially out of a sense of obligation or work ethic—versus their true desire to engage. And desire is the key element in sustained success.

If you manage and lead others—or you’re collaborating with others at work—I recommend the same approach. First ask questions, which can range from a one-on-one conversation to an organization-wide survey. Then, listen intently. Ask yourself what you’re learning that may help you engage others, or what may be important to consider as you create your plan to move forward. Then, based on what you’ve learned, finalize your plan, share your vision, and lead.

Active Delay….Revisited.

Once and awhile, I’m reminded of a past blog entry because of its acute applicability in the here and now. This one is from the Summer of 2007. I’m reminded of it because of the increased volume of emails that we’re all receiving on a daily basis, that generate action on our parts. Following the advice in this entry may help you maintain a reputation of dependability, even while you find yourself falling behind. So, here you go, posted in July, 2007, and again for you, today:
Interestingly, in just the past few days, several people have mentioned to me that they’re frustrated with people not returning their calls and/or emails promptly. Perhaps it’s the season. Summer in the northeast—being so short—tends to slow things down a bit. I’m one of those people who, short of an email or voice mail falling through the cracks, will call you back even if I don’t have anything to tell you. Which leads me to what I want to share with you today.

Perhaps you’re not prepared to return an email because you’ve not had an opportunity to complete what’s been asked of you. Or you’re not quite sure of the answer you want to provide to a question asked. Or maybe you’re simply swamped with higher priorities. —All of which understandably may cause a delay in your responding.

Why not offer an active delay? A quick voice mail or a one-line email acknowledging the other person’s outreach and your intention to respond as soon as you’re able, or prepared to, is a powerful piece of communication. Consider offering a specific target date for when you will respond, and then stick to the plan.

Promptly returned messages offer us an immediate opportunity to service our clients, colleagues, and internal and/or external customers. It says: I hear you, and you matter. And everyone wants to be heard and to matter.

So when you find yourself setting aside an email or message because your ability to fully respond may be delayed, why not offer an active delay? Even in the midst of high demands, you can be building trust in your reliability.