Remember Ahmed, the boss said, "Hey Ahmed, don't you agree we should lower the prices on winter coats?" Why did Ahmed say, "Aha" and then not lower the prices? Has your boss ever used these phrases? Don't you agree, or you agree, right? Don't you think? Wouldn't you say? Surely you'd agree that. We all know what these really mean, I think that. For the many of us, have a yes bias. We are more inclined to say yes whenever possible to a yes/no question. This is even more so, when a no would mean, that we do not think the way our bosses do. If you want an answer, you really want to know what another person thinks, or believes, or feels, ask. Otherwise, tell them what you think without making them guess. "Ahmed, I'm concerned we'll be stuck with too many winter coats on the sales floor when the weather turns. What are your thoughts on how we might get them sold faster?" Perhaps Ahmed has been thinking, "It's too bad our winter coats are buried in the back of the store during the coldest day of the year. If I owned the store, I'd put a temporary rack right out front on those days." You will never know what your employees see that you miss, if you don't ask. Ahmed had a good idea, that was unlikely to ever get implemented. Also, asking provides an opportunity to get Ahmed to think, which as we learned before, can help him learn to make decisions in the future. The more you coach your employees to make decisions and resolve conflicts themselves, the more efficient you will be. While it is a good idea to get your employees ideas heard, as the manager, you do not necessarily have to ask if you will have no intention of changing your decision. You can simply say, "I've decided to lower the price on the winter coats by 15 percent. Please update this in the register and change the signage before the store opens tomorrow." But you don't always have to be in teaching mode, sometimes you're in a hurry, or you have a decision to make, that you want to make on your own. Just don't ask what someone thinks and pretend you care about what they say, when really what you're saying is, I think. Because your employees will see you as disingenuous, and you will lose their trust. Really, every time I've been asked a form of this question, it has had the tone of, and if you disagree, you're an idiot. The underlying causes of these three stories; Joe and the inventory, Marta and the report, and Ahmed and the winter coats, are based on a common route. The manager wants to be perceived as nice. Kim Scott created this table. On the x-axis is the manager's willingness to challenge their employees directly, and on the y-axis is how much the manager cares about their direct reports. Joe, Marta, and Ahmed's bosses were unwilling to challenge them directly. We cannot tell whether their bosses care about them beyond not wanting to appear overly directive or aggressive themselves. That is not the same thing as caring about one's direct reports. We will be better bosses for our direct reports, when we think less about whether we appear to care, and more about whether our direct reports experience our care. Scott says, that bosses who don't care much about their employees, and are willing to challenge directly, those employees usually come across as jerks. They may not intend to be a jerk, but because they do not express any concern for the employee when directing or correcting them, the employee experiences their manager as a jerk. Those who will not challenge their employees at all, come across as manipulatively insincere. Managers who have learned to use the criticism sandwich, and other managerial scripts, and who use those scripts mechanically, often come across as insincere. Many of us have worked for someone who really does care, but is unwilling to upset us in any way. These managers, Scott says, may be expressing empathy, but they're ruining us in the process. We cannot learn from a manager who will not challenge us. Your employees are adults, capable of learning, and growing. Failing to challenge them, infantilizes them, and prevents them from reaching their potential. Ruinous empathy limits your success. Managers succeed when their employees are working to their full potential. Finally, Scott proposes that managers challenge their employees in an environment of care and respect, what she calls radical candor. If you've heard the term, please do not mistake radical candor for brutal honesty. I have a friend who's boss uses the term radical candor right before he says something hurtful. By challenged directly, I do not mean tell everyone all the different ways they annoy you, or do not live up to your expectations, or are not the person you want them to be. Radical candor means that the manager challenges their employee on behaviors and actions that need correction for the employee to succeed. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you are using radical candor to help. What I'm about to say is true, the other person needs to hear this truth, the other person needs to hear it now, the other person is most likely to accept this truth from me, I am the best person to state this truth. Remember that intent does not always match impact. If you wish your employee to take an action or change of behavior, demonstrate that you care about them while also communicating clearly. Align your intentions with the impact your words and actions have on others, by speaking and writing clearly and respectfully, and asking for clarification from others. Use the tortilla method instead of the hamburger bun, when criticizing others. Instead of asking questions that force a person to say they think you're wrong, ask when you want to learn what someone thinks, and tell when you want to tell others what you think.