The other managers laughed. “Are you serious?” they’d say. “The last guy to take on Terry was immediately shown the door,” as they all nodded together.
So much for their support, I thought to myself.
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As the weeks went by, my resolve to change my relationship with Terry increased with every “Can you come down here” phone call. I thought and thought and thought. I knew that his sense of urgency and abruptness was an annoyance for me, but there had to be something else. Why was he making me so mad?
And then it came to me…
It wasn’t the immediacy factor and it wasn’t the rudeness…it was not knowing what he wanted that was killing me. You see, Terry never took the time to set a context for his requests. He preferred to wait until you were standing in front of him before he would explain what he wanted. Not an efficient use of anyone’s time in my opinion. Plus, I’d usually end up having to run back and forth to my office just to put some resolution on whatever it was I was addressing for him.
Another dimension here is the power game that was playing out. By not knowing what Terry wanted, I was put in a somewhat helpless…vulnerable…and unprepared position. Not a desirable place for a new manager like me to be in. As those of you who know me will attest, I’m the type of guy who will go to great lengths to be prepared for just about anything I do.
So I’ve identified the root of the problem…now what?
This is where Rule 6, Ask For What You Need comes in. I needed Terry to change his behavior just enough so I could not only get my needs met (i.e., my need to be prepared) but to also have greater efficiency when we do meet. And truthfully, all he would need to do was take an extra few seconds to explain why he needed to see me before hanging up the phone. That’s not asking too much, is it?
The key to asking for what you need is to make a mutually beneficial request, causing your boss to want to change. A request, I might add, that is stated in a positive way, making it almost impossible to be turned down.
But isn’t this a form of manipulation, you ask?
Yes and no. “Yes” in that you are purposely crafting your words to solicit a desired response, but “No” in that you are simply asking for what you need. What we are talking about here is diplomacy. Instead of criticizing your boss, you turn whatever need is not being met into a request. The end-results are the same...your boss changes his/her behavior and you get your needs met. The best part is that you didn’t upset your boss in the process. How cool is that?
So here’s how it went down
At the end of our next weekly one-on-one meeting I said, “Terry, there’s one more thing.”
“What’s that?” he said.
“You know what would be helpful to me?”
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“What’s that?” he said (again).
“When you need me ASAP, do you mind taking a second or two to tell me what it’s concerning? That way I can be more prepared and not have to waste your time by running back and forth to my office.”