As a manager, if you focus on the employee’s agenda when you’re coaching him or her, how do you ensure that the company’s agenda is being addressed? Let’s focus on this balancing act for a minute.
One of the most powerful approaches that I use is to distance myself from the group’s goals and the organization’s goals. For instance, change “I am responsible for ensuring this project gets delivered on time” to a slightly more distant “As a team, we all need to deliver the project on time.”
This shift in emphasis allows the manager and employee to then work on the problem, side by side, rather than in opposition:
- Is that the real goal that we want to achieve?
- Within that context, what’s the reality of the current situation?
- What resources are available to us?
- What options do we have?
- What do we want to try, and how will we know if we’re successful or not?
You see that this conversation was entirely about us working together as a pair, or even as a larger team, to quickly figure out the best action to take. When we both take ownership for this next step, then we’re equally invested in having it succeed – even if all the actual work is done by only one of the two people.
It’s quite possible that the employee will come to you with an agenda which actually conflicts with your own. Perhaps the employee is getting burned out, yet you don’t see a way to reduce the workload to accommodate that.
In that case, what happens is that together you need to search for common ground. You don’t actually have a goal to give employees an unreasonable workload, so you’re not actually in direct conflict. The solution lies in looking outside the current constraints to a broader world of possibility. In this case, perhaps a different way of addressing productivity might be the best step forward, a way which will allow both you and the employee to meet your independent goals. To start the discussion, though, you need to respect and understand the employee’s goal, not combat it with arguments and excuses.