I recently needed to give an assignment to a coworker. (Since I am an owner of the company, it happens a lot.)
I called the coworker and explained what I needed.
She listened and then repeated the task to me when I was done.
I confirmed she had understood the assignment correctly.
She then asked what the deadline was and if I needed it before another previous assignment.
I answered her question.
Then I complimented her on her textbook response to getting the assignment. I told her I was impressed.
It’s hard to tell where and when somebody picks up skills like my coworker. It could be from many places. Perhaps a peer has modeled it to her, or her direct supervisor demands it from her, so she does it to everybody. It could also come from her background, maybe her schooling, something she read, or her upbringing. Regardless it is impressive.
It is impressive for several reasons.
It builds trust. I left the conversation sure the task would be handled correctly and done on time. As Patrick Lencioni points out in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” trust is the first requirement of the teamwork model. Without a strong base built from trust, a team will struggle.
Also, it perfectly modeled our Brand Promise of being on-time, organized, and approachable.
Asking for a deadline shows a desire and intention to be on time. Not only on time for this item but for every item she worked on. By getting a deadline, she knew she had all week to complete the task. She didn’t need to rush to do this assignment because I am the company’s owner. If she had dropped everything, she would have let other people down and needlessly finished this task long before I needed it.
Repeating the assignment and ensuring she understood it correctly shows she is organized.
Starting the conversation by listening and asking for help with prioritizing shows she is approachable.
Her response took very little time and effort. It didn’t cost her anything. But it made a huge difference in building confidence and trust. She scored points by modeling the brand promise.
I’m I making too big of a deal about this little exchange?
But, my guess is everybody reading this blog will be let down by somebody in the next 24 hours and wish their interaction would have involved repeating the assignment and an agreement on the deadline.
Or perhaps you’ll be the person in my coworker’s position in this conversation, and you will find you let somebody down because you didn’t clarify exactly what the other person wanted and what the expected deadline was for your task.