Assume, Ask, or Affirm – Which Approach Works?

Many leaders have either one of three approaches to influence people to perform certain behaviors.

They either Assume, Ask, or Affirm. And based on how they use these can yield a variety of differing results from their people.

Approaches that Assume will either:

  • Assume ill intent or poor performance
  • Observe without all the facts
  • Believe once told the training is complete
  • Can be presumptuous
  • Closely associate with top-down, “do as I tell you” managing styles
  • Deter trust form your people
  • Alienate engagement and connection

Some creative ways to use Positive Assumption:

  • Assume good intent
  • Trust people want to generally do a good job
  • Know that people are willing to learn and grow
  • Believe your people want to share the vision

Asking approaches vary in these ways:

  • Asking to find fault
  • Coupling with a condescending or condemning tone
  • Impersonal if phrased incorrectly
  • Puts people on the defensive
  • Hides true motives of the question

An effective leader Asks in these ways:

  • Prefaces questions with reasons and transparency
  • Asks as a favor, not a command
  • Inquires for understanding and facts, not dirt
  • Asks to fill a need, not carry out a duty

The Affirming leadership approach has these challenges:

  • Being too nice and not talking straight
  • Leading people to not face reality of course correction
  • Can give false sense of security and lead to complacency for entire teams and organizations

It’s best to couple the Affirming approach in the following ways:

  • Trusting in the right values and vision that align with the core
  • Believing in the skills and abilities of the individual(s)
  • Confirm shared vision and goals
  • Recognize clear understanding so all parties on the same page
  • Lead others to the feeling of accomplishment during the process

While there are many camps that prefer one way or the other, it all comes down to approach and dynamics from the leader. Any style, managed poorly, can have an adverse effect. But with the right understanding of your people and how to influence up, you can use virtually any approach to a positive effect while keeping intact the mutual respect and drive for your teams.


(image: pixaby)


Why You Should Not Trust Data Alone

Technology is great. In terms of being a great tool or a platform for communication, it provides a lot of benefits. For use in business it brings a lot to the table in terms of data and analytics and interface. And just from a curiosity standpoint, it’s neat to see new tech develop and impact our lives.

Some of the great advantages of technology and data in business and leadership is the analytics, efficiency, information,and connectivity we have at our disposal.

It’s thrilling as we see new tech, new applications of data metrics and the ability to share information and use it to be more effective in the marketplace. Data has been incredibly useful in obtaining better proficiency measures, gaining better customer insight and an overall objective view of what could be occurring among customers and in your organization.

But with any tool, there are flaws, and data has them.

And one of the biggest fails of data in today’s tech age is the sole reliance on data alone to make any decision. When companies and leadership get to be a data-alone driven organization, the ramifications can be disastrous.

  • A journalist wrote an article naming a Minnesota town the “worst place to live in America”. This decision, based solely on demographic data, was largely refuted, to which he visited the town and realized that data did not tell the entire story. He did learn form his error and took the high road of integrity to post a correction in his paper.
  • A retail freight company loses key staff due to management pushing them to unload trucks based on a time-per-piece matrix. When the staff gave their input as to why time frames weren’t being met, management discounted the feedback and simply referred to the unloading matrix. At no time did management take into account poor training or a productivity curve, as they just relied on the matrix to justify hourly performance.
  • A hospital that reduces staff based on patient count, but places their employees at risk due to the fact that the acuity (severity) level of their patient population warranted more intensive care and people scheduled. The staff (and patients) were put in great physical risk in caring for patients with high physical needs resulting in each staff person being bogged down with patient needs (such as 1-to-1 care and 2-person lifts) and left other high-needs patients alone for times.
  • Many of our correctional facilities today face a similar danger as does the healthcare facility above.
  • Management measuring performance based on metrics but those metrics being being incorrect, leaving the employee to justify why the data is wrong. Many times this puts the employee at a disadvantage, and even their job at risk because the information does not paint an accurate picture.
  • And there is always the organization that makes cuts to budgets based solely on data and ROI, not understanding the seeds of growth that were ready to sprout and bring good revenue and brand awareness very shortly.

There are these any many other instances occurring in which data tells one side of the story about a business, team, or individual, and that story often falls short.

It’s easy to get quite intoxicated from data, in the forms of CRM, spreadsheets, shiny tech, and just by being “a tech-savvy company”. And then when you layer metric-based performance, ROI, and KPIs, it’s easy to allow data to drive decision making in the organization.

It is necessary for solid leaders to keep in mind that they led organizations that are people-based first, and data measured where appropriate. Data alone cannot help in the people areas of:

  • Cultural alignment.
  • Congruency of vision.
  • Commitment to the mission.
  • Connectivity to clients and colleagues.
  • Skills and where they need growth.
  • Talents and where they best fit.
  • Drive to meet goals.
  • Adaptability to external and internal changes.

We need to remember in these data-dependent days that the core of business and leadership, when all is said and done, is people. It’s people, not data, that realize the vision. People that determine what’s best for the customer because of the intuitive relationship that has been cultivated. Individuals who can adapt and understand the needs of other individuals, because they themselves have empathy as those with similar needs.

Data is a tool, and a wonderfully powerful tool. Yet reliance on the data, thus only part of the story of what’s going on in your organization, poses the danger of missing the needs of people internal and external to your company.

Trust your people in order to verify what data tells you. People will always reveal the rest of the story in ways that data can never do.

(image: wikipedia)



Keep A “To Be” List

The “To-Do” List. 

Almost all leaders keep one.

It may be a simple post-it note or a small lined pad. It may be the more elaborate Franklin Planner, Planner Pad, or Get-Things-Done (GTD) systems. For those of us techies we may even be using the Opus Domini or Wunderlist on your tablet or smartphone.

With so much to do, and so many demands, we feel these lists are essential to how we manage our day, our lives, and our careers.

But what about our reputation and character? As leaders, do we find the time to place on our list those things that will enable us to grow, lead, and be an example of great leadership in our various roles at work and home?

In other words, do you have a “To-Be” List?

In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography he describes his little book he carried with him at all times. In it, he listed 13 virtues he wanted to develop into better character traits. He chose one and focused on that for a week, then the next week another one, and so on. He may have been the first person to truly create a “To Be” list.

Having a “To Be” list accomplishes the same purpose as does a to-do list. It shapes the things we want to do daily in order to accomplish a goal. Instead of tasks and projects, it is our leadership traits.

In his book Life’s Ultimate To Do Be List by David C. Cook, he asks that if, at times, you feel more like a human “doing” than a human being. Does that seem true for you as well? Do you desire to finish your day measured by who you were rather than what you’ve done?

We can change that today. There are numbers of ways to make this happen.

We can make a list alongside our to-do list. You can choose a weekly leadership trait and focus on it like Franklin. You can select seven and choose one each day throughout the week, similar to what Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter and Square) does. Perhaps you can do it twice daily (one trait in the morning and one in the afternoon). The method is yours to create as long as it’s effective for you to grow. Personally, I write one quick statement across the top of my daily list as reminder of who to be. Ones that I’ve used are “Be Remarkable”, “Do Right”, and “Business is People“. Makes yours unique to you.

Let’s take these next weeks to focus on our being, rather than our doing!

(image: flickr)

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