I decided to do another short solo show for those of you that might have missed the earlier format of A Geek Leader shows. This is a quick tip that I picked up from a parenting course. Now before you rule out using parenting techniques at work, let me confess and say that I use them all the time… and they work. This one is is called “What’s your plan for______?”
Let me explain. If you notice a task that you’ve delegated to one of your team members is not getting done as you would like it to, you may be like me and start to get nervous, or annoyed with the lack of progress. This is when I would either take the task back to make sure it got done, or micro-manage the employee to death to get it done. Either way, this leaves the employee feeling bad and sometimes inadequate. You may think that this would encourage them to do better next time and not drop the ball, but in reality, it usually does the opposite. It teaches them that maybe they aren’t capable of those tasks, and that if they don’t do them, its okay, because you’ll just pick them back up and make sure they get done.
Another approach is to take the “What’s your plan for____?” approach. This is very simple, just ask your employee “What’s your plan for <FILL IN THE BLANK>?” and let them answer. For example, if I had an employee that is delaying on getting a new system deployed, I would approach them and instead of saying “How’s the new system going?” which they may reply with “fine” even though no progress has been made… or instead of saying “I need you to get that new system done…” which would likely lead to annoying the employee and not really making headway towards the goal. I would say, “What’s your plan for the new system deployment?” And listen intently on the new plan and offer feedback. If there isn’t a plan, then this is the perfect time to work together to come up with one. But, what I found is that the employees typically have a “rough draft” plan in their head that hasn’t been documented or vetted yet. When they start to tell you the plan, have them document and go over it with them right then and there. This shows your interest in their project and shows that you aren’t going to forget about it.
I’ve found that this also encourages the employee to make this a higher priority than they did before. Its also important to let them know that you believe in them and that you know they will do a good job with this project (even if you have your doubts). Sometimes people just need a little bit of encouragement, a jumpstart, and map to point them in the right direction. Good leaders can do this without being demeaning or putting down their employees.
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