What are you probably thinking while they are talking?
A. What you were doing before the person ran in, even though it means only half-listening to their story?
B. Internal brainstorming on how you would handle X?
C. Preparing to respond with all the things others have done in a similar situation so you can share them as soon as the person is done talking?
D. Carefully listening to the situation to be sure this person gets the help he or she needs on X?
Answers A, B, and C are SELF-focused, and answer D is OTHER-focused.
Now, ask yourself, “Which one do you think will best meet the needs of this person, over time? Which one might make them a ‘customer’ who feels cared for?”
Yes, answer D.
Changing your focus
To improve your ability to focus on the needs of others instead of your own, here are four questions to consider when someone comes to you with an issue or situation.
- What is the issue/focus for this person?
- What is their understanding of the situation? Who, what , when, where, how, etc..
- What does he or she think should be done—or what is the help he or she needs?
- How can you help them follow through with their solution, or deliver what is needed?
Let’s replay the scenario and see how this works in practice. Once again, someone runs into your office (or calls on the phone) and says, “I need help with X.”
Step 1: Understand the Focus—You immediately stop what you are doing, becoming present and focused on that person. Then, as the person is sharing, you are listening carefully to ensure that you understand what the issue is. When he or she is done talking, you say, ”Ok. Your situation/issue is….”
Step 2: Get Information—Before generating a list of what to do, the next step to empowering this person over time is to get him or her to share the background or other pertinent information about the situation so all are clear. Before jumping in with your solutions ask what he or she thinks is the best possible outcome for the situation. (This is not as easy as it seems!) Reflect back what you hear.
Step 3: Identify Options—To get the best possible outcome, now you ask what options can be considered. What does the person think or feel should be done? What does he or she need to do that? What learning is necessary? Who could help? By when could it be done? What else?
Step 4: Follow up—Your final job is to follow-up to help the person deliver the solution that’s been generated. Your follow-up is to ensure that he or she acts on his or her best intentions. Checking in within 24 hours to see how it is going is an uncommon practice that will generate a lifetime of gratitude.
First, you engender collegiality. Second, you act as a catalyst to help the person move on his or her idea—or revisit the situation, in case the person needs additional help to move forward. The important thing to remember is, it’s all about them.
In these days of rapid communication and overload of tasks, it is easy to forget that people like to be smart, and they like to know that others trust them to do their best work. By being a sounding board, instead of a solution board, you inspire others to feel powerful and claim their greatness.
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their other-focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.