Got a meeting request from my manager the other day. It had a simple title: “Performance Review”. Nothing else.
Now some more context: I’m not against performance appraisals, and welcome the opportunity to sit down with my boss and see where we’re at. Haven’t have one in a while. So this is good.
Yet I was in a mild panic. To quote Hortsman’s Christmas Rule: if it’s important, and you don’t do it very often, it’s going to be stressful. Just like Christmas. Was it just me he was having this chat with? Did I miss something? Who else was going to be there? What did he want to talk about?
My response was: “Anything you’d like me to prepare?”
Now I get accused of being too nice sometimes, so maybe I could have worded that a little more strongly. I was a little pissed but didn’t want to show it. At least not yet.
Back in my Air Cadet days, one of the leadership troupes they taught us about communicating and speechifying was: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. A little simple but it worked for fourteen-year-old brains. This communique didn’t have any of those elements.
So here I am, doing what I think is a fairly decent job, and now I’m wondering if I’m getting called on the carpet, in trouble, or even about to get fired. No worries, I’ve kept my network warmed up and ready to go. I figure I’m good.
The other thing that was missing was what I like to call the Three Questions. When doing a presentation or communicating, ask yourself: what three questions would my audience like answered?
That helps take us out of the “what do I need to say” and into a “what do they want to hear” mode. Being more focused on the audience helps us connect with them better.
It wasn’t two hours before the boss came out with a follow-up email which explained his intentions, agenda, and what he’d like us all to prepare for our one-on-one sessions. Turns out this is going to be a regular, on-going check-in for all of us. Some two-way communication going on. Yeah!
Which I’m sure was his intention in the first place. He just forget I can’t read his mind. Maybe asking “what three things does my audience want to know” might have avoided any of the short-lived misunderstandings.
p.s. this works for public speaking, town-hall meetings, newsletters, etc. too. What three things does your audience want to know?
p.p.s goes to show that even us experts get things wrong once in a while. The hardest thing about management is not managing, sometimes it’s remembering what to do in the right context at the right time.