How to handle eight sentences that employees use to make themselves less effective.
Being the boss is difficult enough without employees saying things that add confusion and misdirection to the process.
If you've got a boss, set a mental flag to stop yourself if you hear one of these sentences coming out of your own mouth. And if you are the boss, here's what to say to train your employees to stop saying them.
1. "Exactly how do you want me to do this?"
The boss's job is to ensure that everyone on the team is going in the same direction and working to achieve the same goals. Unless the employee is a novice who needs coaching, it's the employee's job to handle the specific details of his or her tasks.
Boss's best response: "I don't care how you do it, just get it done."
2. "This is my idea so I want full credit for it."
Good ideas are essential, but they're also a dime-a-dozen. Once an employee surfaces an idea to the boss and the rest of the team, and everyone commits to implement it, the original idea becomes group property.
Boss's best response: "If you want this to happen, we'll all need to own it."
3. "I'll try to get it done on time."
When bosses are coordinating the activities of multiple people, they need to know what's going to happen and when. Adding the element of "maybe" inherent in the phrase "I'll try" makes good planning almost impossible.
Boss's best response: "Do. Or do not. There is no try."
4. "I need you to review this 300 page document."
Such requests are disrespectful because no boss--at least no boss who's doing his or her job--the time to wade through a 300 page document. Just as bosses try to clear the way to make employee's jobs easier, employees must be respectful of the boss's time.
Boss's best response: "Write me a one page summary of what's important."
5. "Could you call them for me?"
This is an example of "delegating upward," which is when an employee has a difficult task and, rather than biting the bullet and getting it done, attempts to foists it onto the boss. This not only wastes the boss's time but encourages employee helplessness.
Boss's best response: "No, that's your job."
6. "Oops, I forgot to tell you about that."
The most important rule of the employee/boss relationship is "no surprises." As long as the boss isn't "shooting the messenger," it's the employee's job to surface difficulties long before they can turn into unpleasant surprises.
Boss's best response: "Your annual review will be affected if this happens repeatedly."
7. "I just need to vent..."
While it may provide the employee some emotional relief to complain about problems that don't have a solution, the boss is there to solve problems and move the team's agenda forward... not to be the employee's personal counselor.
Boss's best response: "Okay, but let's keep focused on what we've got to get done."
8. "Are you sure that's the right decision?"
The time to raise options and alternatives is before a decision is made. Once it's made, attempting to revisit the decision or second-guess it is wasted effort that would be better spent implementing the decision.