Stop Agreeing To Unclear Requests [New Post]

Unclear requests wreak havoc in organizations, families, friendships, and civic life.

This is particularly true when the one receiving the request blindly says “yes.”

What is an unclear request? It’s when you ask me to do something but are vague about what you want.

Scenario A: Omission of the “What.”

Imagine that you are the design manager for a team creating a new product for the home refrigerator. When attached to the fridge, it senses when the door isn’t closed all the way and emits a sound. When Henry Homeowner hears this sound, he knows to go back and find out what’s blocking the door.

I’m your lead designer, and we have a preliminary conversation about the product and what it will do. You close by saying to me, “Give me something by Thursday at 5pm.”

I think to myself, Hmm, I don’t really know what “something” means, but that’s what they pay me to do, and I don’t want to look stupid by asking a question. So I say, “You got it, boss.”

I work hard on this for three days, and on Thursday afternoon give you what you asked for. Ten minutes later, the phone rings. “That is not what I asked for” you say with audible frustration. I feel dejected and angry. What a waste of time!

Scenario B: Omission of the “When.” 

Same product, people, and situation. But this time, you say, “Give me a 3D prototype with basic specs next week.”

When I hear this, I understand what will satisfy you and know that it’s urgent. So I shift my schedule around to allow me to get you the prototype by next Friday at noon, five hours before your deadline.

On Wednesday morning, you knock on my door. “Where’s the prototype?” you ask.

My throat tightens, and pressure mounts in my forehead. In a low apologetic voice, I reply, “I’m working on it.”

The frown on your face tells me that this isn’t the answer you were looking for. “I told you I needed it this week. We’re already halfway through the week.”

Oops.

Scenario C: Omission of the “What” and the “When.” 

Same product, people, and situation. This time, you say, “Give me something ASAP.”

Although I don’t know what will satisfy you or when you want it, I agree to the request.

What happens next: as the saying goes, I get my just dessert.

Who messed up? 

When it’s time for the team’s annual Broken Trust Awards, which one of us gets to walk away with a medal?

The answer, of course, is both. You receive the Fuzzy Duddy Award for making the unclear request. I get the Dummy Award for accepting it.

What can I do differently?

The obvious answer is to resent you for being so unclear. You’re the manager. You’re supposed to know what you’re talking about. Stop jerking me around!

Or, I can own up to my part of the situation. The next time you make an unclear request, I choose to do one of the following:

  • Ask for clarification. “I get what you’re looking for and want to make sure I understand when exactly you want it. You said ‘next week.’ When during the week did you have in mind?”
  • Propose something more specific. “OK, so you want something by Thursday at 5pm. I want to make sure that we are on the same page in terms of what you want. If I gave you a table of features and benefits, will this work for you, or did you have something else in mind?”
  • Promise to propose something more specific. “I’ve got the timeframe and understand that it may not be clear exactly what you’re looking for. What I’d like to do is take two hours and come back to you with a proposal for what I’ll have for you by Thursday at 5pm. Will this work for you?”

 

The Five Reasons You Became A Manager [New Post]

There are five reasons you became a manager.

The first reason is that you’d rather be a boss than have a boss. More power!

Exactly seven minutes after your promotion, you get a call from the person who hired you for the new job. The one who wooed you. This person, you realize, is your new boss. Part of your job is to keep this person happy. That will take real effort.

There is an exception: when your new boss is the same as your old boss. Whatever you did before to keep her happy, you can keep doing. Easy peasy.

Alas, either way, you don’t get what you wanted: freedom from a boss.

The second reason you became a manager was to get a bigger office. Bigger offices are nice because they create more distance between you and your boss—either your new boss or your old boss with the new title. Space is freedom, so it feels great.

Exactly seven minutes after you move into your new office, you realize that the room is full of people who want things from you. It’s a bigger office, so there are more people.

So you bring in bookcases (even though you don’t have time to read) and file cabinets (even though all your files are electronic). These protect you from people who want things from you.

Unfortunately, when people who want things from you can’t find you—or need to lift heavy bookcases and file cabinets to see you—they become unhappy. Your engagement scores plummet. This makes your boss—either your new boss or the old boss with the new title—very anxious.

The third reason you became a manager was to increase your influence. Instead of looking up at other managers, you get to call many of them your peers. And by persuading them, you indirectly impact all of the people who report to them. The other good news: directors and vice presidents now want to talk with you.

Exactly seven minutes after feeling excited about this, you realize that your calendar is now filled with back-to-back meetings. These may be great opportunities to influence people, but you won’t have time to prepare for them. So it dawns on you that the purpose of these meetings is actually for other people to influence you.

The fourth reason you became a manager was to impress your friends, family, and the three high school classmates you bump into over the holidays.

Exactly seven minutes after telling them about your promotion, they ask you what you do as a manager, and you realize that you don’t know how to answer. You’ve spent all of your time so far figuring out how to make your new boss happy, filling your bigger office with furniture, and going to meetings that you haven’t had time to manage.

So you tell them that your new job positions you really well for the promotion to director.

The fifth and least conscious reason you became a manager was to get things done through others rather than yourself. You hear about this strange explanation 18 months after your promotion during your second performance review with your boss—either the new boss, the old boss with the new title, or the brand new boss who replaced the first new boss because the first new boss was trying to get everything done herself.

By the end of the performance review, you finally get it. Getting things done through others rather than yourself is what managing is all about. Of course!

You are so excited to figure this out that you give your boss a big warm hug and announce that you are now ready to give yourself fully to the organization, just as soon as you switch back to being an individual contributor.

***********************************************************************************

If you know anyone who is a manager, was a manager, or would like to become a manager, think hard for 10 seconds before forwarding this to them.

Episode 67: Lies, Authority, And Assessments With Chris Chittenden [The Amiel Show]

How is a lie different from an ungrounded assessment, and why does this matter in leadership? Where does a leader’s authority come from? What happens when you provide a well-grounded assessment that doesn’t matter to anyone listening?

I have a hunch that your answers to these questions will help you understand the peculiar and disturbing state of politics in the United States today.

This week on the podcast, Chris Chittenden joins me to make sense of these questions. Chris and I previously spoke about real accountability. This time, he helps me use his powerful ontological lens to understand the age of Trump and simultaneously provide clarity about leadership in organizations.

Highlights

  • 12:00 It’s easy to mix up assertions and assessments. Don’t do it!
  • 17:00 Assessments help us see what’s good or bad for us
  • 20:00 Five steps to grounding an assessment
  • 30:00 Obamacare, shifting standards, and the meaning of words
  • 43:00 Certainty, autonomy and the fall of empires
  • 50:00 The President’s conditional promises
  • 1:00:00 Who actually gives the President authority?
  • 1:05:00 The role of “fake news” in shaping assertions and assessments
  • 1:25:00 When a country’s executive function has a damaged prefrontal cortex

Listen to the Podcast

Download l Listen in new window

Explore Additional Resources

New to Podcasts?

Get started here

Subscribe to the Show on iTunes (It’s Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without a Subscribe button (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on the Subscribe button. It’s in the upper left corner of the screen.

Give Me a Rating or Review on iTunes (It’s Also Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without “Ratings and Reviews” (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on “Ratings and Reviews”
  5. Give it a rating. Bonus for a review

 

President’s DJT’s Enneagram Type, my free new eBook

I’m pleased to announce the release of my new eBook, DJT’s Enneagram Type: The Case for Three. It’s shorter than most eBooks yet one of the most comprehensive explorations ever of a President’s personality type.

  • For fans of the Enneagram, you’ll find it fascinating. If this sounds like you, please forward this to Enneagram friends.
  • For people interested in adult development, join me as I take a stab at integrating vertical developmental stages with the horizontal typology of the Enneagram.
  • For people following U.S. politics, the book offers a break from the “He’s great”/”He’s terrible” debate. I use the Enneagram to understand the President–in particular, what makes him tick.

My own view of DJT’s Enneagram type has changed dramatically. I walk you through this evolution of my thinking and offer a point-by-point response to the argument of a highly respected Enneagram teacher and friend, Bea Chestnut.

The book is free for subscribers. Click here, provide your email address, and you’ll get the download. When you see the words “Thank you for Signing Up”, rest assured: you’re already on the list.

Know anyone who would be interested in this? Please forward this email to them now. They’ll thank you for it!

Again, click here to get your free copy.

Episode 66: Men’s Sexual Shadow At Work With Keith Witt [The Amiel Show]

Dr Keith Witt

Men who are conscious of their sexual shadows at work are better leaders. They are less likely to do stupid things like sexually harass women or have illicit affairs. By spending less energy fighting their shadows, they can use their human superpowers to do good things like build great teams and guide them toward a better future.

People don’t talk a lot about this. Not in day to day work. And not even in classes about diversity and inclusion—or women in leadership.

That’s why I was so excited to talk with this week’s guest, Keith Witt, about his new book Shadow Light: Illuminations At the Edge Of Darkness.

His book and our conversation are about everyone (not just men) and all types of shadow (not just the sexual one). Still, the part I found most valuable was about straight guys who still haven’t gotten over their teenage crush on Suzie next door. Yes, we actually riff on this for 15 minutes!

Keith and I previously spoke about creating a marital love affair. You might say that this time we talk about loving your shadow.

For integral folks, we also talk about your personal moral system. How does this system change as we grow? What happens to our bodies when we violate it?

As if that weren’t enough, we also look at how healthy and unhealthy nationalism differ. Hint: it has to do with the collective shadow!

Highlights

  • The shame of violating your moral system
  • Constructive versus destructive shadow
  • Human superpowers
  • The roots of sexual harassment
  • Evaluating potential employees for their willingness to be influenced
  • Healthy and unhealthy nationalism

Listen to the Podcast

Explore Additional Resources

New to Podcasts?

Get started here

Subscribe to the Show on iTunes (It’s Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without a Subscribe button (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on the Subscribe button. It’s in the upper left corner of the screen.

Give Me a Rating or Review on iTunes (It’s Also Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without “Ratings and Reviews” (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on “Ratings and Reviews”
  5. Give it a rating. Bonus for a review

 

Episode 65: Parenting 3-7 Year-Olds With Ba Luvmour [The Amiel Show]

Ba2

This week on the podcast, I welcome back Ba Luvmour to discuss parenting kids ages 3-7. Ba is the headmaster at Summa Academy in Portland, which our older son attends–and loves!

Ba and I previously spoke about parenting 8-12 year-olds and parenting teens.

Highlights

  • 7:00 The importance of “rightful place”
  • 13:00 Loving touch, the nourishment of this stage, comes in many forms
  • 16:30 Being patient with a child’s egotism and expressions of power
  • 24:30 Kids this age don’t read time well
  • 36:30 Being a mountain for the child
  • 43:00 Do these kids need to sit at the dinner table while adults talk?
  • 47:30 Rejoicing in a child’s experience versus saying “good job!”

Listen to the Podcast

Download l Listen in new window

Explore Additional Resources

New to Podcasts?

Get started here

Subscribe to the Show on iTunes (It’s Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without a Subscribe button (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on the Subscribe button. It’s in the upper left corner of the screen.

Give Me a Rating or Review on iTunes (It’s Also Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without “Ratings and Reviews” (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on “Ratings and Reviews”
  5. Give it a rating. Bonus for a review