confused 1I’m really confused…(scratch head).

I love this phrase for performance conversations. I recommend using it when you:

  1. Are frustrated about something that someone keeps doing that is not what you want
  2. Think someone has a negative intent.
  3. See the activity, but the desired outcome is missing (no impact).

Rather than blasting, or avoiding, or talking to everyone but the right person, take an approach to illuminate your concern. Say, “I’m confused.”  I assure you that you  will get the person’s attention (we hear the phrase so infrequently). Then, you can lay out the sequence of repeating actions. I recommend a quick diagram or series of diagrams. Then turn it over to the other person “What is going on?”

The approach allows you to:

  • Be in listening mode.
  •  Set aside negative emotion.

A Simple Case

I first used the technique 20 years ago with a young Associate who I asked to put a hard copy of a report on my chair. She would email me the revised report. When I swooped into the office between trips, it would make me nuts to realize she had not done what I asked.

Ok, this a small deal, but I was angry. Then I turned the anger into curiousity. If she was doing this with me on such a simple request, how would she survive the “big dogs” in the firm?

I sat down with her with a series of diagrams in front of us and talked through the dates and data. When I pulled out the “I’m confused. What’s happening?” She said ” I thought it would be more efficient to send by email.”

Hmmm. “So you decided not to give me what I asked for because you thought I shouldn’t want it that way?” Her face fell.

In her defense, she had no idea what it was like to fly in and out of town three times each week. Or, the difference of having real paper copy to think through the next revision in a cramped plane seat. We talked about checking assumptions before delivering something different than requested. We talked about how hard the work environment could be without following clear directions.

An Important Reminder

No one intentionally tries to makes you frustrated or annoyed. Be confused the next time they do.