Sunday, September 23, 2007

knowing what we want from a connection

It is not as common as it could be. I'm not sure that anyone has ever looked at me and asked: "What do you need from me to allow you to perform at your best?"

Why is that an unusual question? It makes sense for teachers, managers, and partners to ask what they can do to better the performance of the people on whose performance their own success depends. It is evident that there are benefits to understanding the perspective of the people we are supposed to lead or support, and to having them commit to that perspective by putting it into words. It allows us to provide better support and it commits them to working with us when we provide the kind of support or guidance they have requested. It is truly a win/win.

So try it. Notice that it is hard to ask the question and that it is a hard question to answer. Notice that there is an element of tough self-reflection that is necessary in order to make the question effective. It's not easy to risk asking a question that might open doors that are comfortably closed and it's not easy to risk asking for what we think we need (just in case we're wrong). It is a difficult question.

It is not more difficult than coping with the frustration of hoping that what occurs to us is what is necessary. It is not more difficult than demands left unspoken or needs left unfilled. It is not more difficult than struggling alone when someone else would be willing to lend us a hand or an ear.

So try it. Ask someone on whose success you depend (at least in part): "What do you need from me to allow you to perform at your best?"

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