Behind many complaints there is a request or a commitment.
I was reviewing some materials produced by the National Managers’ Community for a course I was hoping to take before I was felled by a bad cold. No matter, as preparation, I got a chance to revisit some coaching techniques that I have learned before to bring them back to front of mind. I realized that there is a certain magic to remembering that we have the power to reframe behaviours we find difficult in the workplace. Taken from the guide available to all Coaching Practices for Managers, we can listen for both requests and commitments that are obscured behind complaints.
A complaint that someone has too many different files or doesn’t want to work on a certain file, may be a commitment to being a credible expert on the material. It may also be a request to reframe expectations around handling multiple files.
A complaint that insufficient numbers of documents are getting vetted by key partners may be a request for commitment to adequate consultation. It may also just be a request for an update on what consults were done and why.
A complaint against late meeting starts or rambling updates may be a commitment to protecting people’s time and ensuring that key agenda items get the air time they need.
More generally, this practice helped me remember that I can always ask “what else is going on here?” faced by a situation that I find challenging. Instead of making assumptions about why something is occurring, I can ask “What is the unmet need that is prompting this request?” or when I feel that my requests to my team/boss are going unmet, I can ask “What need of my own have I have failed to express to my team?”
The Coaching Practices booklet contains a few other practices which are worth a look as well.