Remember the old adage about assuming….

And yet we do it SO often.  Especially when things aren’t going ideal or are getting downright ugly.  We assume we know why John or Carla did what they did and how they did it.  Instead of getting down and dirty and learning the core reason why things are going awry it is easier and quicker for us to assume motives and assign blame.  Of course in the long run this is very very expensive – both dollarwise, timewise and culturewise.

Next time you have some concerns about an employee’s performance, start asking questions instead of making assumptions – seek to understand what is actually happening.  (And not leading questions…open, “I really want to understand what’s going on” questions.)

Here is a conversation process that ideally creates a safe and honest space to collaboratively create solutions to a problem:

  1. Let the employee know you have some concerns (wait to name) about XYZ project/process/client/ attitude (be specific)
  2. Ask the employee if they’ve noticed anything concerning about XYZ – it’s likely they will and it may or may not match up to your concerns
  3. LISTEN openly and attentively
  4. Let the employee know the specific concerns (ABC) you have without highlighting their individual involvement – timeliness/client satisfaction/cost/group dynamics/project success etc.
  5. Ask the employee if they know why ABC is occurring
  6. LISTEN very closely (keeping your brain’s assumptions at bay)
  7. Then ask yourself (silently :)) –  do they have legitimate reasons that you haven’t considered or investigated?  Are they owning up to their role in the issue?  Are they blaming others?
  8. Ask the employee if/what they could do to keep ABC from continuing to occur and/or if they were in your shoes, what would they do to keep ABC from continuing to occur?   You may also need to ask how you can support them in keeping ABC from occuring – what resources do they need?