I was doing a little pre-CNY meet-up with a good friend of mine, Alex Tan from Avidity International, and I brought up the topic on time wasters at the workplace. You may have experienced it too. It starts as harmless as you asking someone “How are you?” (out of politeness), when in fact, you actually have a crucial matter that needs attention. Or as a manager, you see your staff running towards you at the corridor ready to bomb you with his or her problem, just when you are going out for a lunch meeting.
Alex shared with me a few tips on addressing the issue, and I did some further research too. Here’s a quick recap for you.
Ask “What do you need from me?”
As a manager or senior team member, you may be “ambushed” by younger staffs over a problem they had. The big mistake is to ask “What’s the problem?”. That will trigger a floodgate of information and long-winded story, draining both of you out. Instead, a smarter move is to ask “what do you need from me?” right at the start. That is very solution-focused, and you can address it within minutes.
Start with the Headline
While we may be enticed to keep the best content to have a dramatic ending like in the movies, the experts would advice you against that. Information overload is a real problem, and starting off with a strong headline about your biggest issue will ensure you get people’s attention right from the start. This will also help both parties to remain focused throughout the conversation.
Move on with the crucial info
After a strong headline, give up to three points of information, just to elaborate/expand on your headline. Here’s where you can inform what you’ve done about a specific problem, who are involved, when the results can be expected etc.
Always give options to your solutions
If you do go to your management with a problem, be ready with two or more solutions. Nobody likes to be told a problem without a way out (because it looks like a complaint). Your solutions may not be chosen, but the fact that you are proactive in giving options will score you big points with management.
Offer a more detailed follow-up on email
After the brief conversation, asked if the other party would like a more detailed info sent to their email. This serves as a good reminder for them, and most managers appreciate to be kept in the loop on what you’re doing.
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