The Manager Misstep is explained and the VIVID Tool is highlighted.

Are you guilty of the Manager Misstep?

  • When your direct reports or team come to you do you step in too soon without fully hearing what they want?
  • Do you step in the wrong direction, suggesting something they already tried?
  • Do you step on their initiative, giving your suggestions versus hearing their ideas first?

If you answered yes to these, you are guilty of the “Manager Misstep” . You are not alone. In my work as an Executive Coach and Corporate Psychologist, we all make this mistake and also do so as parents. We know managers get a lift if not a good dose of dopamine by solving problems. It feels good to solve problems but many of us are not aware that as the manager we are doing all the heavy lifting. We are solving versus developing and telling versus encouraging our people to truly think and stretch.

The Paradigm Shift

In groups I lead, I ask what percent of time do you think the direct report wants your direction because they come into your office or cubicle with a puzzled look and ask you a question, (these all the cues for the Manager’s Misstep); but instead of direction they have their own ideas that they have been developing, which are 1/3 or 1/2 baked? They really want validation for their OWN ideas NOT your direction. When asked this question, most people say is 70% or more of the time the direct reports want validation and not direction. The manager mistakenly thinks they want their direction 70% of the time or more. This creates a disconnect and lost opportunities for both!

The direct report can feel unheard, unappreciated, even insulted as the manager quickly takes this as an opportunity to tell the direct report what to do and is being too helpful. Consequently direct reports feel less engaged. This process also can happen with colleagues and even at home with the family.

How can the leader know what the direct report actually wants from them so they can listen and respond effectively?

How should I listen to you? Be more VIVID

Do you need?

  • to Vent
  • Information
  • Validation
  • Ideation
  • Direction

Neuroscientists tell us the brain changes with attention and focus. Daniel Goleman writes “that our focus is under siege.” So how can leaders listen and focus appropriately so they can give the direct report what they really want and better empower them.

Direct reports and co-workers can help the leader help them with what they want from them in each interaction. The VIVID models covers about 90% of what a direct report or colleague wants from their boss but usually isn’t made explicit. This can help the boss be more effective in their listening and empowering. As you read these, reflect on whether this would help you listen differently and better for how to respond.

We have many executives now who use the VIVID to immediately ask the direct report or colleagues which of these they want from them. One CEO has the VIVID on his door as the line of people requiring his time builds during the day.

Vent: Often people are venting but don’t say, “I need to vent so you know what is happening, but I will figure it out.” One sentence goes unspoken and the boss may be listening and inferring that the direct report or colleague are complaining and always coming to them with their problems to fix. Wrong assumptions are made that may affect their review of the person. If the boss knows they are venting they can listen differently and if the person is going on too long can say, “Do you still need time to vent?” This may help the person wind up their venting and move on to what they are going to do about it.

Information: These are simple questions about things such as, when is this due, what can they spend, when is the meeting or deadline?

Validation: Here the boss can really listen to the direct reports or colleagues ideas fully. While assessing the merit of the ideas and seeing how the person is thinking and problem solving. This conversation is a developing conversation at its best, pulling out their ideas and saving your ideas as the boss to the end. The individual feels honored, heard and valued for their ideas and contributions. We know from the Gallup Q 12 questions, one of the main factors for engagement is how people answer the question, “My opinion seems to count.” When the leader truly listens and validates, there are has huge payoffs for engagement and generating good ideas.

Ideation: This where the direct report or colleague want to brainstorm with the boss as their ideas aren’t well formed and they want to “kick ideas around.”

Direction: Here the boss tells the direct report or colleague what they want them to do. They tell them, “Here is my direction, decision, order or request.” It is easy for the boss and may be an automatic response without getting to the root of the issue or spending quality moment s hearing their direct report or colleague.

Control your Managers’ Missteps and use these five steps or questions to clarify what your direct reports or colleagues want from you to better support their engagement, empowerment and development.

For more tools and strategies to raise your emotional intelligence and be your best and bring out the best, join our eiCentral go to: http://www.truenorthleadership.com/ei-leadership-tools/

Author's Bio: 

Master Certified Coach and Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD), Dr. Relly Nadler is an expert in emotional intelligence and leadership development. For over 20 years, top executives and corporate teams of Fortune 500 companies have benefited from his live training, coaching, team building. Now, leaders everywhere, of all company sizes and budgets, can join his online learning boot-camps that include membership to his exclusive library of webinars, videos, other tools and resources that he has developed, together with live group coaching calls. Go to TrueNorthLeadership.com/store to learn more about what is available.