Are you on auto response? Many of us are.
“How are you?” is met with “good” or “fine” even when things aren’t so good. A client responded this way while dealing with a painful kidney stone. He was most certainly not “good”, but it was his auto response. I wasn’t fooled by the verbal response and instead asked more specific questions based on the pallor of his skin and grimace on his face. Turns out he wasn’t good, and needed help.
This happens to be a physical example, but the danger of the incorrect auto response is important to be aware of in many cases. If you’re not careful in your relationships – as a manager, employee, coach, partner, parent, or friend – the auto response and your reaction to it can make for confusing communication, misread cues, and stress.
What to do?
As the inquiring party –
- Begin with a more specific question. “How are you?” and “how was your day/week/month?” is much more likely to get you a short, non-specific auto response than questions like “what did you learn most from recently?” or “what’s been the most challenging part of the week?” or “what was the most rewarding part of the week?”
- Listen carefully. Listen to more than the words. Tone and body language all play into communicating. Try to understand how the words and the body language combine into what the person is really saying
- Ask clarifying questions. If you’re not clear and have the question mark balloon floating above your head, ask another question
On the receiving side of the questions –
- Dial back your auto response. Sure, there are the folks in the elevator that say “how are you?” and don’t expect (or want) a response other than “good”. But getting what you need and want from communicating means getting more specific in your answer to people that care
Have you talked in an auto response (or responses!) lately?
What tactics will you try to keep your conversations more real and less on autopilot?
Amidst the spectacle and pageantry of the opening ceremonies at the Olympics, I’m always struck by the number of coaches and support folks marching in with the athletes. Nowhere is this more clear than when a smaller competing country has coaches outnumbering their athletes.
Every athlete has a coach – some have more than one. These individuals are peak performers (at the top of their game) getting feedback, encouragement, advice, and support. High functioning athletic team players have both individually focused and team coaches. Olympic athletes have reached their expert level in large part due to their own perseverance, talent, and hard work, but also from learning and adjusting through the advice of their coaches.
All too often, coaching in the business context is called into play for only top-level leaders (the Olympic leaders, if you will), and to ‘fix’ weaknesses in that individual. But great coaching plays not only at the remedial level but at the high potential level as well – building on strengths and unique individual opportunities to succeed.
What’s the upside if you were to get a coach? For your team?
Or if you already have a coach – where are you seeing fantastic wins?
Lots and lots of people spend lots and lots of time creating missions, values, and purposes. To be sure, these things are important – to align and prioritize teams, projects, and organizations.
BUT! One of the most powerful ways of differentiating and prioritizing is listing the what Not-To-Do. Peter Drucker calls the inverse of priorities, ‘posteriorities’. If your tongue, like mine, gets tangled up saying that, just call it the ‘not to do’ list. Peter Drucker also called it ‘planned abandonment’. Read more about this from the source on the Drucker Exchange here.
Before you start prioritizing, ask yourself “who cares?”
Here’s my handy dandy graphic priority organizer.
- If you don’t care and no one else does – why is it on the list anyway?
- If you care and no one else does – you get to keep it on the list
- If you don’t care and everyone else does – keep it on the list
- If you care and everyone else does – it should be close or at least up at the top of the list
Remember to ask yourself “who cares?” not only to prioritize, but to organize your thoughts, your team, and your project plan on how and when to get something done.
‘Who cares’ is hard:
- It means not checking every email the minute it comes in
- It means prioritizing, focusing, and doing the things that you and others care about, even if they’re hard or less interesting
- It means not getting into the water cooler gossip chain, even if it’s fun and scandalous
Customize your priorities using the “Who Cares?” question.