Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Warning - Processing Times May Vary

My 18-month old son is learning tons of words a day and we are constantly talking when we are waiting for a bus, shopping in a store, etc.  I name things and sometimes he'll repeat what I say.  With the things he knows (like train, bus, and puppy) I will often ask him what is that?  What I have noticed is that if someone else is around and my son doesn't answer right away, the adult will answer for him.  Now sometimes he is playing shy and sometimes I am pretty sure he is thinking "I am not a performing monkey mom!" but either way, jumping in and giving him the answer before he has even had a chance to process is not the way to teach him.  And just because he doesn't answer right away, does not mean he is stupid or incompetent.  He knows how, in his own little way, to ask for help if he needs it and I have learned to wait for that indication before jumping in and taking over.  Sounds relatively simple and like the rambling of a mother who hasn't gotten any sleep, right?

So how many of you tell your employees how to do something rather than what needs to be done?  How many have rewritten something on your own because your employee didn't get it write?  How many of you reassigned something because you didn't think your employee was moving fast enough even though they hadn't missed a deadline?  And how many assumed that because an employee didn't speak up in a meeting, they had nothing to add?  Not so simple anymore is it?

There are multiple reasons that someone might not do something at the speed that you want them to, but it all boils down to the fact that it takes people different amounts of time to process information and requests and they do so in different ways.

Want to test my hypothesis?  At your next meeting of people you recognize as intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough, without advance notice, ask each person to write down a list of things they want to get done today.  Start a timer.  Mark when the first person finishes and when the last person finishes.  I am willing to bet the time difference between the person who finished first and the person who finished last is greater than the time it took the first person to finish.  In addition, I bet the first person to finish got frustrated waiting on the others and the last person to finish felt rushed.

So when you rush your employees (mandatory deadlines aside) because you think they should have finished the task by now, you are doing the same thing to them as random strangers do to my son.  You are taking away their processing time and being disrespectful of their processing style.  Taken to an extreme if this is done consistently and often enough, the employee (or child) will learn that they don't have to do anything because if they wait long enough someone else will do it.

What steps do you as a leader to be respectful of other's needs and methods?  How do you balance production and execution with developing others?