Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

A few weeks ago I got a bus into town.

They’ve got Wi-Fi now, which is a good thing, and you can buy your ticket by tapping in. As I boarded the bus,  I wrongly assumed it worked like contactless on London buses – you tap in and you’re good to go, no need to speak to the driver or specify your journey. You tap in, sit down and then get off at your stop. Easy.

However, as I soon found out, it doesn’t work like that here.

This driver let me stand there for a good 30 seconds trying to tap in, wondering why it wouldn’t work. That might not sound like a long time, but when you’ve a bus full of people waiting to go, all looking at you and wondering what you’re doing, believe me, it felt like an eternity.

Only then did he tell me I needed to tell him what sort of ticket I wanted. How did I feel? Embarrassed and silly. But mostly, really, really annoyed. There was no need for me to feel like this; a simple, kind explanation the first time I made the mistake would have sorted it. Why on earth didn’t he tell me I was doing it wrong? Why didn’t he say, I need to know your destination?

Now, this is an inconsequential example in the great scheme of things, but how many leaders and managers shy away from having those types of conversations with their team? A conversation that helps someone to do the right thing, put right a wrong or clear up a misunderstanding?

It’s kinder, more helpful and better for all concerned to tell someone what to do to improve or correct a mistake, than leave them making it.

If your leaders aren’t having these conversations, why not? It’s their job to have them – it’s what leading is about. And if it’s you that’s not having these types of conversations, and shying away from helping a colleague or team member to be at their best…well, just read that last phrase again.

It’s about helping your colleagues to be at their best. While it might feel uncomfortable initially, it comes with the territory. It’s possible to learn how to have these conversations and get better at them; the first step is being motivated for the right reasons – which should be about wanting someone to succeed, and having their best intentions at heart. This orientation changes how you show up, how you manage yourself and the actual conversation itself; you can influence the outcome by holding an intention to help, not harangue.

A few sessions of coaching can help equip managers and leaders with the skills they need to do their jobs properly – with kindness, creating impact and helping your team/organisation to flourish.

I’m Susan Ritchie, an author, leadership and executive coach and trainer. My second book, Strategies for Being Visible: 14 Profile-Raising Ideas for Emerging Female Leaders is now available at Waterstones, Blackwells, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.