Your company’s most important asset is its people. How do you align people and honor their individuality at the same time? By opening channels of communication.  

Being able to receive feedback is just as valuable as giving it. Direct reports should feel comfortable giving feedback, and execs should be open to receiving it.

Our Process: At Storytell, we train all our employees in Clean Communication (CC), so that everyone is comfortable having regular conversations like these.

Our CX Admin, Pat, shared his thoughts with me during a recent 1:1.

Delegation vs. Abdication

Have you ever heard of “delegate, don’t abdicate?” I realized I had done the latter when Pat shared with me how my project management – or lack thereof – was affecting his work.

The Backstory: Pat has been up for tackling anything that’s come his way the entire time we’ve worked together, so when he started struggling with one particular project, I sensed something was up. 

When I asked him how he was feeling about his role, Pat told me he felt like he was falling behind. After we did some digging, it turned out that the problem was unclear guidance I had given him. Leaving him to figure out exactly what the deliverables were made the project take much longer than both of us expected.

Key Takeaway: More often than not, your direct reports’ performance is a reflection of your management.

Using Clean Communication to Upgrade My Project Management Skills

Clean Communication exists for situations just like this one, and the frameworks are just as much for me as they are for everyone else.

Observations vs Judgements: I used this CC framework to start the conversation, so Pat would know I was coming from a place of curiosity, not criticism: “You were totally on point last week, but this week I noticed things were a little bit different. What are your thoughts?” 

Active Listening: When Pat shared his perspective, I used this framework so he would feel heard and understood: “I’m hearing you say you’d like more clarity around what to do with the user calls. You’d prefer more direction instead of having me dump things on you to figure out. Is that right?” 

Getting Back on Track Together

Pat had spent the week working overtime to get a project finished — which I appreciate, but certainly don’t want to become the norm. He's so consistently independent that from the outside looking in, it often seems effortless. 

It’s the ideal scenario for any manager — the only downside is that I don't always realize the difficulty level or time required for certain tasks.

Repair a Broken Agreement: Once we were on the same page around the problem, we used this framework to address the situation going forward. We found a specific example of a time where my instructions around a specific project were clear, and agreed to model future communication after that.