Have you ever gone to a meeting with a certain expectation, only to understand that the other party hasn’t quite decided what they want to get out of it? Have you ever been set a task or a project only to have the scope amended a few weeks later? Have you ever completed an assignment, only for the result to be consigned to the “utter waste of time” pile?
Annoying, isn’t it?
In these circumstances, you may be the victim, but I can guarantee that you are guilty of it yourself more than you realize. We often muddle through our lives, not really having a truly firm idea of what we want to achieve, just taking our “best shots.” Sometimes it hits the mark, but more often than not, we fail. There are nearly always consequences for others. We don’t live in isolation.
It is natural to want to explore things, to kick around ideas in order to come to a conclusion. However, with the breakneck pace of modern business, sometimes you have to make judgements without due consideration. That is when things tend to go wrong….
We tend to live at 100mph, taking things people say at face value and not taking the time to explore any deeper meaning. If someone makes a statement or asks a question, they must have thought it through, right? Wrong! This is one basic assumption that you should never make. If you sense that someone is not 100% certain of what they are saying, it is always worth pausing to investigate the reasons behind their hesitation.
It is all about context. What hides behind the questions?
If you take the time to listen to someone for a few seconds longer, if you pause your own thought process and consider not only what they are saying but also why they are saying it, then it is easier to figure out what the true message is.
If they have obviously not made up their own minds, a superficial “yeah, let’s just get on with it then” will never do. You have to explore what lies behind what they are saying, and challenge their thinking. If you come at the question from the same angle as them, then it will be far easier to come to a common understanding of what is required.
Bringing it back to my business, this is often the case when I talk to my clients about a recruitment brief. I enjoy exploring the raw business need for the role, I enjoy dissecting their culture and analysing what makes someone successful in their company. I ask the hard questions from their point of view so that I can ensure that they fully envisage what they require. Without this, any role that I take on would be a lottery.
So, next time you don’t feel confident in what you are proposing, allow yourself to explore the context with someone. Give them the background, explain your reasons. Equally, next time someone is leading you up the garden path, ask them the same questions.
Knowing what you want is not always easy, but it is ok to ask for help.
Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury