Ever watch a 12 year old walk through a department store, pointing out each and every flaw in design or pricing? Adolescents are particularly adept at finding and announcing fault. With any luck, and several years’ frontal lobe development, they learn the value of perspective and filtering. Not everyone learns the finer points of socialization — witness those who are perpetually involved in disputes.
Organizations go through a similar maturing process. Just like people, they can actually get stuck in the “we say it like it is” or “take me as I am” phase. Evolved groups move beyond straight talk and into solution building. “Managing Up as a Form of Corporate Collaboration” talks about the benefits of fearless communications motivated by a desire to contribute. The post wrapped up with this sentence:
Managing up doesn’t mean seeking to have your way; it means you are sharing information that might not otherwise be known and shows that you trust the more senior group to evaluate your information in the larger context of the organization.
I wrote that post with the greatest respect for management structures and in recognition of the need for all levels to communicate effectively. Top-down, bottom-up… Neither model can effectively stand on its own. We need solid communication skills at every level.
Bringing coaching language into the picture can help people and groups move forward quickly. Decide for yourself. Which of these is more effective?
“I’m disappointed that you haven’t delivered that material to me and I’m losing my patience.”
- or -
“What got in the way of meeting the delivery date you provided?”
The second phrase clearly declares a missed deliverable, but it does so in a way that seeks to understand. The Coach Approach (which is one of the most misunderstood leadership tools of our day) takes a disappointment and turns it into a two-way conversation. It sets the stage for an accountable relationship 100% more effectively than simply telling someone to do something and then growling at them when you don’t get the expected result. It moves us past adolescence and into organizational adulthood.