How Asking for Help Supports the Success of All, in Business and at Work
“How do I tell an employee that I’m not happy with the quality of their work?” The Business Owner asked recently, obviously perturbed. I asked what the problem was. “They’re missing deadlines, and it’s impacting my work for a key customer negatively as well.” I nodded. “How long has this been going on?” I asked. “About a month,” Business Owner replied. I nodded again. “Have you given them any feedback that you’re not happy with their work?” I queried. Business Owner sighed. “No, to be honest, and fair to them. I don’t want to create a tempest in a teapot, and I don’t want them to get discouraged, either. I need them!” I sat back in my chair, and thought for a few moments. Given the circumstances and the timing, Business Owner’s conundrum seemed like a set-up for a guaranteed unproductive conflict.
And then in my mind’s eye, I saw Bill, the best mentor-manager of my career, appear like an HR muse. And as my HR muse, how he knew instinctively that shaking a finger at me when I made a mistake would drive me to guilty distraction, wasting productive work time and causing me to miss the important lessons that he, as a consummate developer of talent, was committed to teaching me. I smiled slightly at the fond memories of Bill’s mentoring, and invoked the seemingly magical words of one of his best teaching tools. “Have you thought about asking them for their help in solving this issue?” I asked. Business Owner was surprised at the question, yet obviously intrigued. “Well, no – what do you think that will do?” I leaned forward. “I think, at minimum, it will create an opening to have a factual discussion as two professionals.” Business Owner was wary, but willing to try the tool. “How should I say it?” they asked. “I’d say: ‘We keep missing a deadline for a key customer, and I need your help to solve this problem – we certainly don’t want to lose the customer’s business.’ How does that sound?” Business Owner smiled for the first time during our conversation. “I’ll let you know how the discussion goes,” they said. “Please do,” I encouraged.
I saw Business Owner a month later, looking more relaxed and positive. When I sat down, they greeted me heartily. “Well, I asked my employee for their help,” Business Owner reported. “What happened?” I asked, eager to hear the good news. “Well, not only did it address the issue, but my employee also came up with some creative solutions to improve and shorten our work process. And they’ve also voluntarily worked extra hours to completely resolve the issue. I’m very pleased!” I smiled. “Excellent work!” And I silently thanked Bill for his excellent work, too.
How will you ask for help this week, to support the success of all, in business and at work?
Tags: acceptance, accountability, appreciative inquiry, business, coaching, employee, employer, engagement, entrepreneur, leadership, mentoring, partnership, resiliency, responsibility, strategy, success, teaching