I know what you’re dealing with: a need to move faster than lightening, get results now, and get them right. And did I mention all the corporate paperwork and processes you have to follow while still delivering on time and under budget?
But wait – in all of this rush, you’ve forgotten something – or someone and maybe many “someones.” The fact of the matter is that you can’t lead without others, and people need you. They take time. They take effort. They take relationship-building. Last but not least they take conversation. Sometimes they need conversations that are emotional because work can be emotional or because they have something going in their outside-of-work life that is impacting them and their work.
This time with someone may be the most important part of your day, and it just might be less awful than you think, because you have everything you need to have that emotional conversation that can come unexpectedly. Welcome it. Stop what you are doing and turn to the person who needs you. Let them have all of your attention, because sometimes all that conversation requires is your presence.
It’s this easy and this hard:
Listen because when someone is distraught, that’s often all you need to do. Do it with all of your mind and heart. Shut off the chatter and turn to the person in front of you as if they and their problem were the only thing you have to do at this moment (even when it isn’t). Listen to understand their situation, and when you get a chance, summarize what you think you heard and don’t be upset if you got it wrong. You did your best.
Ask what they need. A very simple question, “What do you need?” can work miracles. Don’t assume they need anything, because chances are they’ll surprise you when they say they just need to be heard. If they need something more, let them tell them tell you. You don’t have to say yes – compromise if you need to. Don’t jump into the fire with “doing” because right now you just need to “be” there.
Don’t judge their story. That may be the first place your mind goes, but it’s not what’s best for them or for you. Don’t judge with your words or your thoughts. Instead, you might find some common ground to be able to say simply, “That sucks, and I’ve been there too”. Beware of telling your own stories because at this moment, they just need to feel heard.
Stay with them and stay present as long as you can. Focus on their situation and their story. If you’ve promised to do something that they need, then either follow through or get back to them with a darned good reason why you can’t (and apologize profusely for being caught up in their emotional situation and vowing to do something you cannot do).
Now you can let them go on with their life. If they need to be heard again, they’ll let you know.
It might not seem true at this very moment, but this just may be the most important part of your day.
More From Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.