Playing Detective

There are times that leaders don’t pay enough attention about whether their people are working on assignments that are over their heads.

Understand that when asked if they need help, they’ll probably say no. They don’t want to appear to be less knowledgeable than they are in reality.

Of course, it would be so much easier if they would simply declare when they feel bewildered or confused. But whether it’s pride or embarrassment or ignorance, they’ll keep plugging away, often in the wrong direction.

So you may need to play detective. Ask different questions so that you can receive different information. Here are a few triggers that you can adapt to get the ball rolling.

Tell me about your thought process. In this case, the person will describe how she approached the problem. Sometimes all that is needed is for the person to vet her thought process.

What doesn’t make sense? This isolates the stress points of the assignment and will provide you with specific insight. If the answer is too general or generic, it’s a clue that the answer is probably “everything.”

Map out your approach. Similar to the first example, this activates a different part of the brain. Diagramming the process may indeed trigger an outcome that will bring a person back on track.

Whether you use any of these or other ideas, the point is that you will get much more insight by going deeper than simply asking “do you need help?” or “how can I help you?”

Of course, you don’t want to upset the person by pressing the issue. Take a coaching approach and listen actively. Keep in mind that the worst thing you can do is to ignore an answer of “I’m fine” when the person clearly isn’t.

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