Hey boss, what do you want to know? – Part 1

This was a nice May Lei to get yesterday: an email conversation. Anytime someone asks me for coaching on Managing with Aloha, that’s a lei for me! It started like this:

“Aloha Rosa,

Well, you got my boss convinced. She read your book and started doing The Daily 5 Minutes with us. She tells us we can talk about whatever we want, but I’m just not used to this. Do you have any suggestions for me after I exhaust the small talk?

Thanks for your time, Lucy”

I gave Lucy a couple of quick suggestions, but I promised to post more about it here on Talking Story after I’d thought about it some more.

So Part 1 today
You’re the employee getting The Daily 5 Minutes

Part 2 tomorrow
You’re the boss giving The Daily 5 Minutes

If by chance this is your first time to Talking Story, read about the Daily Five Minutes here first. For the sake of brevity, let’s abbreviate in the rest of this: D5M will = The Daily Five Minutes.

Part 1: You’re the employee

When your boss Takes 5 with you, the basic coaching they get from me is that the agenda for the D5M is yours, not theirs (hence Lucy’s question). They are supposed to come to you with nothing but an eagerness to talk to you, ready for some practice on being a better listener when you talk to them — about whatever you want to talk to them about.

In brief, Managing with Aloha is a strengths-based and values-based management philosophy, so for you to get the most out of the opportunity you are given with the D5M, the smartest thing you can do with that time is to educate your boss on a) your strengths, and b) your values. More about this in a minute.

Second, the D5M is your opportunity to reinvent the professional relationship you have with your boss by virtue of your getting to know each other better. Over time, they become more receptive to your opinions and your feelings when they’ve taken 5 with you on a regular basis, and frankly, you can be increasingly honest and straightforward with them.

What are the things you wish they knew about you? Start with simple things; for example, are you a visual person (prefer text messages on your cell phone?) or an auditory person (prefer voice mail?). Morning person or night owl?

The easy way to start the conversation is to ask them about their preferences first (they’ll appreciate your interest in what they like and want), then volunteer yours (you are giving them valuable information on how to better interact with you). As you get more and more comfortable with each other, you’ll have laid great groundwork for conversations you previously may have never started: for instance you can tell them how what they think of as “constructive criticism” grates on you because they need to better understand something about it, and don’t.

See here’s where only having 5 minutes can be a beautiful thing: you have to plan ahead so you keep it short and sweet but effectively unemotional. You don’t have to beat around the bush anymore as you tentatively lead up to something. You don’t have to obsess over looking for a good time to approach them. But you do rehearse things in your mind before the D5M happens. When it does, both of you engage quickly, listen better and are more open-minded.

Third, use the D5M as preview time. When you know you should have a longer conversation with your boss about something, use The D5M to briefly let them know what’s on your mind, and ask for more time to talk story with them about it later. Chances are you’ll get that extra time much sooner than if you’d called their admin for an appointment.

Let’s go back to strengths and values. When I did the draft for this post this section got very long, and we can visit the subject more here on Talking Story in the future. If you have MWA, this is a way to re-read the 19 values within it, from the standpoint of identifying those values that resonate with you, and turning it into a conversation you want to have with your boss. As for strengths, I’d highly recommend you get Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and take the StrengthsFinder Profile online (you need the code in the book). For now, some quick bits to give you the general gist of the idea: 5 on strengths and 5 on values.

Strengths: (Word choice if you know StrengthsFinder)

  • You have a constant need for achievement. You live in pursuit of the perpetual challenge, and you never feel as though you’ve reached your goal. (Achiever) Tell your boss.
  • You don’t think of yourself as particularly assertive, but you do take charge. You feel you take initiative with certain things, and more often than not. You’re pretty candid with other people. (Command) Tell your boss.
  • You’re a great storyteller. You like to explain, describe, host, speak in public, and write. You feel like you’re pretty good at capturing others interest, no matter how short their attention span. (Communication) Tell your boss.
  • You thrive on order, organization and efficiency. It drives you crazy when stuff seems aimless and you aren’t clear on the company’s priorities. (Focus) Tell your boss.
  • Fairness is more than a personal value with you, you think of it as your strength because it pretty much predicts how you’ll respond to most situations. Equity and equality is important to you, you always root for the underdog, and you are the first to give credit where credit is due. (Consistency) Tell your boss.

Values: (Word choice from Managing with Aloha)

  • You never give up. Persistence is your middle name. Mistakes are okay, and even failing at some things is okay as long as you always get up and try again. (Ho‘omau) You want the company you work for to be okay with that: Tell your boss.
  • Humility is part of your nature, and in some ways you have a hard time tooting your own horn. However you are proud of those things you know you do well, and it’s nice to be recognized for them. (Ha‘aha‘a) You have a great idea for the kind of recognition that would feel good but not be overly embarrassing: Tell your boss.
  • Cooperation and collaboration are important to you, and you get very uncomfortable when it feels like someone at work is trying to ram something down your throat and you don’t get the chance to participate in the decision. (Lōkahi) There are more like you in the company whose voices should be heard: Tell your boss.
  • You love having guests and working with the customer. You truly do think of yourself as a people person, and love being of service to others. (Ho‘okipa) You have ideas on how the company can better connect with customers: Tell your boss.
  • Balance is important to you. You have a high need for things to be right, ethical, and morally just. (Pono) You would never want to be associated with a company you did not feel had high levels of integrity, and never compromised it: Tell your boss.

So yes, best case scenario there is a progression here with The Daily Five Minutes: You are creating a new relationship where from your boss’s point of view you are moving from “good to know you better” to valuable employee (who is honest and upfront with me), to business partner (who is a source of great feedback and good ideas).

  1. Do start with the small talk.
  2. Interview each other. How long have you been working there? Is the boss you have now the one who originally interviewed you? Life goes on, things change: give them the opportunity to re-interview you. What skills do you have now that they might not realize you have learned as you’ve worked for them, or from doing some community work, or from taking some form of continuing education?
  3. Progress to strengths and values. Same technique works as with number 2: interview each other — it’ll help you immensely when you know your boss’s strengths and values from their perception versus yours.
  4. Talk about work and your company’s business in ways that show your boss you do get the big picture.
  5. Start to live in the land of new ideas and continuous learning.
  6. Romp freely from number 1 to number 5.

And relax: I’m coaching your boss (if they know about the D5M at all) that this will take more than 5 minutes in the beginning as you both begin it, but trust me, this does work its way to only 5 minutes each time sooner than you think.

A few more tips:

  • Start keeping track of your thoughts and ideas. Keep a blank index card or small notebook in your pocket, and write stuff down as things come to mind. Your ideas are your value currency, and you want your boss to know you are a rich source.
  • Beat them to it. When you know there is some project coming up, and separating the workforce into focus groups or project teams is inevitable, tell your boss what part of the project you want to work on. Ask for the parts of assignments you want when you’re going to end up getting something anyway. Before you know it, they’ll ask what they can delegate to you on a regular basis.
  • When you have job vacancies, give your boss some feedback on the kind of candidates you wish they would hire. “It would be great if we could find someone who is great with graphics since most of us are numbers people.” Make suggestions on how job responsibilities can be shifted so that expectations are set better for the new guy and there is instant buy-in their first day on the job.
  • Get your boss to help you learn. Tell him what you want to learn about, and if it is part of his expertise ask him to teach you. Learn together: talk about trends in your industry and profession. Talk about books. Ask if you can attend conferences. Who knows, your boss may become your mentor.
  • Have fun with this and enjoy it. The serious stuff will get interspersed occasionally as it needs to, but overall you want to both look forward to the D5M, not go in armed for battle.

So come back and visit with me tomorrow for Part 2 when I talk to your boss; it may give you a bit more help putting yourself in their shoes after even more coaching from me. Update: Link to part 2.

If you are a boss, do feel free to weigh in here in the comments: I hear many of you complain at times that employees expect you to be mind-readers. So answer the question in the title: What do you want to know from them? What would you like to be on their D5M agenda for you?

Hey Lucy, thank you for asking me to do this!

Related posts:

5 Minutes Daily = Work Life Reinvention.

Strengths and Values.

Talking Story RSS Feed.
Rosa’s monthly Ho‘ohana Newsletter by email.


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