I have a client who is the General Manager for a mid-sized corporation. Her direct reports are 15 division managers. We were talking about how best to run her manager meetings. During the conversation, she noted that her managers seem to want to make her happy. As a result, in meetings, the conversations do not seem genuine because the managers either paint a bright picture for her, or are quiet when she asks how things are going. She said to me, “I think they believe that I only want to hear a certain type of answer.” I said, “Is there any chance you are giving the impression that you don’t want to hear the ‘problems’?” She said “yes”. “Why is that?” She said, “If I hear the problems, then I have to fix them and that is a lot of work for me.”
We had been working with the REALITY model of enrollment and how to enroll her managers in doing their jobs well. What she realized is that she had unconsciously been conveying to them that she did not want to hear any kind of problems. But when she realized this she saw that she could not enroll them in helping her run the company well unless she listened to everything they had to say even if she didn’t really want to hear it.
Her learning, and I think it is pertinent for many company managers, is that when “problems” arise, the very first thing we must do is simply LISTEN. Then reflect back what we hear. Ask curious questions. LISTEN again. Do not try to solve people’s problems before you fully understand them. And often, if you listen closely in this fashion, they will solve the problems themselves. If not, you have the opportunity to enroll them in solving their problems. When you see there is a problem, do not avoid it. Show people you are eager to hear what they have to say. And then really hear them.