This past week I found myself standing in the lobby of a hotel and, having lit the elevator button with an initial push, decided that I needed to push the button again. . .and again. As I became aware of my rather foolish actions I smiled – did I really believe that pushing the elevator button would make the car come faster? No, I know it makes no difference, but at least I was doing something while I waited impatiently.
How often do we do this in others areas of life and work? Even when we know that our actions won’t increase the chances of achieving what we want, we continue with the actions. For instance, how about continuing with the same unproductive agenda for a weekly team meeting? Or, having the same conversation with our spouse that regularly leads to an argument? Or, in the world of development, what about using the same ineffective script with non-donors during phonathons year after year? We regularly find ourselves behaving in the same way over and over again even when experience has told us the outcome we want will not be achieved.
And since we are trying something we tend to blame the team, our spouse, and the non-donors when the results don’t come back as we would like.
But the reality is that we hold the power to get more of the results we want – people will respond differently based on our approach. And a most effective approach is almost always to ask what others think, feel, or want.
Studies (and anecdotal evidence) suggest that when a manager asks for feedback or perspective from those in her care, the subordinates are more likely to think favorably of her and also respond affirmatively to her requests. We know that donors respond well to being asked for advice. And, likewise, spouses tend to respond well to similar questions (and yes, I need to practice this more often myself!).
So, not only do you find out what people want from asking for their advice, thoughts, and ideas but they also think better of you! Not a bad set of outcomes from a simple question. And a whole lot more effective than pushing the elevator button again and again.