May 18, 2007

Demanding and supportive

"The real art, which you have to learn with your kids as well as your employees, is how to be both demanding and supportive simultaneously. It’s not that easy to learn if you are not a natural. It takes lots of practice.” This is a quote from David Maister taken from this interview I did with him in 2006. As is so often the case, David Maister is hitting the nail right on the head. The reason to talk about this issue with David was an article he had written about an experience he once had, years ago. You can read the article here. I think Insoo Kim Berg had a similar kind of message when she said the following in an interview in 2003: "I do many trainings all over the world, and I am helping many organizations. I do a lot of solution focused management training. For instance, I train middle managers and team leaders. I help them manage their team members in a solution-focused way. Sometimes, when we do role-plays, they are shocked. For instance, we do a role-play in which a manager talks to an employee who shows up late for work. And then I say: 'You must have a good reason for being late. How can I help?' And then I might say: 'What are some of your ideas about solving this problem?' So, by doing this, I am being understanding, helpful, and at the same time I am making my expectations clear. And I keep on asking that: 'What are your ideas about solving this? And those middle managers are amazed and sometimes say: 'If you keep on repeating that, the person will get upset!' But most of the time the employee will not get upset. In fact, the clarity of stating your expectation often helps." Insoo's way of being demanding and understanding at the same time, is very inspiring, I think. Together with my colleague Gwenda Schlundt Bodien, I have written this article and this article which are attempts to elaborate this a bit.

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