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ZEN's Top Tips for Management, Talent & Leadership Development

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Here are 3 common examples of behaviours to be wary of that can send a conversation down the wrong path along with the corresponding simple alternatives that can help guide you to a more productive outcome. Management, Talent & Leadership Development made easy.

1. Leading questions

We often use these when we're consciously trying to coach, to ask more questions and seem more engaged and empathetic. It's a lovely intention, but when we are used to coming straight in with a solution to save time, the result can be we ask a leading question like "do you think it might be better to try this?". If you're the manager too, the implied message can seem to be "do this instead, I'm not so interested in your suggestions".

RESULT: The solution might be a good one, but you lose all those benefits you were aiming for in the first place and the recipient can in fact resent you for not just saying what you mean.

INSTEAD: Stay curious, imagine you're talking to a friend where the questions come naturally. Ask genuine open questions. If you can't think of one, TED statements help - "Tell me/Explain to me/Describe to me more about that."

2. Losing eye contact and vocal energy towards the end of the crucial message

It happens a lot - you get to a crucial part of your message, perhaps the feedback you've been worrying about giving, and you're anxious about the reaction you'll get. So, you subconsciously try to distance yourself from it - your eyes drop to your notes and your vocal energy trails off. It might even happen when giving positive feedback - you're just a bit uncomfortable giving it.

RESULT: The message is confused, it doesn't hit home, whether positive or developmental. Perhaps the impact of their behaviour isn't fully understood either.

INSTEAD: Keep the eye contact and vocal energy going right to the end for those moments that are most important. Not all the time, just keep it when you need them to really understand what you're saying.

3. Front-loading developmental feedback with positive feedback

It seems like a nice thing to do doesn't it? The thinking goes - I have a tough message to give so to soften the blow, I'll say some nice things about them first.

RESULT: The recipient loses clarity and gets confused - which message is the important one? Or they forget the positive message anyway. After a while, they begin to think that you're only giving positive comments as a way to butter them up for the feedback you really want to give. It seems disingenuous and you lose their trust. They may even become uncooperative.

INSTEAD: Keep each feedback conversation focused on one message. This can be either developmental or positive but make sure you don't confuse the two. Even if it's part of an annual appraisal, be clear about each message you move on to.

Good luck!

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