And What Does That Look Like?
As a professor at the University of Omaha at Nebraska’s College of Business Administration one of the courses I have the pleasure of teaching is Management 3490; It’s your basic Management 101 type of class for business students. I enjoy the class because it allows me to fold in many of the leadership mantra I learned throughout my military career, my time in corporate America, and a small business owner.
During the semester we have candid conversations while working through various scenarios and case studies covering a myriad of topics one may encounter in the workplace. I encourage students to share their own experiences to enable them to learn from each other and see direct application in their own lives. One theme I foot stomp throughout is there is no single recipe or cookie cutter approach to effective management and leadership. While there may be common threads, organizations are made up of people, different people, who bring new challenges to the table everyday making management a very contextual endeavor.
A technique we discuss when working with an unhappy employee is simply asking the question, “What does that look like for you?” You see, when most of us recognize we aren’t happy we are quick to blame an external source. Many of us are even quicker to point a finger when we under-perform; not my fault or it’s because of X, Y and Z. Imploring an employee in this manner affords the person an opportunity to offer a solution and their vision of what would rectify the situation. Basically saying, I acknowledge your problem, tell me how you would fix it? Through discussion we explore the feasibility of their proposal but also what courses of action are currently within their control. Sometimes there is a harsh realization the person isn’t doing as much as he/she could or taking advantage of opportunities already presented. At worst there is an education moment. At best they are part of a solution that has immediate buy-in.
Over the course of 15+ years since we’ve opened our doors, I’ve had many students here at MAMA question our approach to training. My reply? Yup, you guessed it. “What does that look like for you?” When students approach me with concern over our training program most reply to my question with a vague, non-descript answer like “We should do more takedowns” or “We need a competition training” or “We need to train harder.” I acknowledge and then initiate a discussion to learn what they think that means and how exactly that would play out. I ask if you were to “train harder” what would you do? I let them talk then give my thoughts along with a little history on what I’ve experienced and has been attempted. Then I ask the golden question “What’s stopping you from doing this now?” Enter puzzled look.
When we are unhappy with our current situation or the result we’re getting we often question everything around us or want somebody to fix it for us. Sometimes we even selfishly assume it’s what ails everyone. What we don’t do often enough is ask simple questions like: “What could I do differently?” “What else do I need to do?” “Am I maximizing what I have now?”
Here’s an example: a muay thai student of mine indicated we to train more like fighters do; hinting our approach was soft. I asked the question, “OK, so what does that look like?” The reply, “Well, I like they do in Thailand.” Just so happens I’ve been to Thailand and I’ve seen and personally experienced “authentic” training. My reply “Awesome, OK, so you’re committing to show up at 8am, run 5 miles, then train for 2 hours during which you’ll do countless rounds on the thai pads and then the heavy bag, clinch for at least 30 minutes, then spar, go back on the heavy for reps and finish with core conditioning…THEN…come back and do it again later that same day. EVERY DAY. This is what you are asking for when you currently don’t even train 4 days per week within our 1 hour class format.”
Before you implore someone to rectify your situation be sure you’ve done everything you can that’s in your current power. As a martial arts student, if you aren’t attending class every day, drilling hours of repetition during open mat times, or giving 100% effort in every round on the thai pads then you probably don’t need to ask for something else; you likely just need to do more of what you know and already have.