Speeding on the Two Way Street

by Craig Jackman

Part of what I need to do as a manager is to get my direct reports to do the tasks that are assigned to them. You need to do the same for your direct reports. Sure, as a manager you may feel it’s just faster if you do it yourself first, particularly with some of the junior members of your team, but it’s best in the long run to delegate the task and get someone else to do it. First, it frees you up to use your advanced skills for something more important, but secondly it will also grow your report’s skills to be able to handle more and more difficult tasks and grow up the responsibility ladder. You have to communicate to your employees to assign the task to them, and get them to do it with a reasonable chance of success. How do you do that? KUBA.

Not Cuba... that’s the land of great cigars, cheap beach vacations, and a generation of questionable international politics. KUBA is Know Understand Believe Act (or Action). It’s the four phases that let someone receive a task, understand what’s being asked of them, and to then act positively on that task. Using KUBA will let your direct reports see the task that’s being asked of them as a logical step forward. It keeps your employees engaged and motivated, and an employee that’s engaged to the team is both a joy to supervise and an asset to your team.

The first step is Know. Your reports have to know what you are asking of them and know what is expected of them. They may not know how to accomplish what you are asking of them, and in that case you might be needed to help guide them, or it may be a great learning opportunity for them to learn as they go. To quote Galileo “You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.” As Manager, you need to know what they need to know, and what you can do to ensure that they have all the information they need.

Bet you didn’t expect to see a Renaissance scientist quoted in Radio And Production did you?

Once they Know what is expected, they need to Understand. They need to understand the details behind the request, and how they can get any missing details. You need to be able to help increase their understanding of the request when needed.

People can Know what’s expected and even Understand what’s expected when a request is made of them, but if they were to just Act then it would just be lip service. They need to Believe in the value of the request, both to themselves and to the team around them. They need to Believe, even unconsciously that the request aligns with furthering the team or aligns with their core values, what’s important to them. With that in mind, asking your reports to kill the Sales Rep who’s pissing you off probably isn’t going to get the results you are asking for. Then again, if it does, you’ve got bigger problems with the people you work with.

Lastly, they have to Act. They have to do what they need to do to be successful. It will help if they have enough information to know how the outcome you expect from them, and how that successful outcome can be measured.

How do you know where your employee is along this process? Ask them; don’t assume that you know! Some call it “taking their temperature.” Ask them if they know what’s being asked of them. Ask them if they understand why they are being asked to do what they are being asked. From their answers you should be able to discern if they have belief in the task. Once you are satisfied they are ready to go, let them act on it, and you can be reasonably certain of the outcome.

Now there are instances where you don’t want, or can’t use KUBA. With a motivated team, not every request needs such a formal procedure. In an emergency, in a business compliance situation, in a security situation, it’s OK to make a non-negotiable request of someone. “Just do it!” In these situations, it’s KUBA in reverse: Act Believe Understand Know. As a Manager you can make these reverse KUBA requests only where really needed. If every request is “just do it,” you are going to lower moral in your team. People are not mushrooms; you can’t just keep throwing fertilizer on them in the dark. The more you fill them in, in the light, the more they are going to grow.

With reverse KUBA, it’s best to let people know up front what you expect the Act or Action to be from the beginning, and not every one of your direct reports is going to respond well to reverse KUBA. It’s best to use it with an employee who will be the kind to likely support your request in the end. That kind of employee will likely Act, with the Belief that you will follow up with the Understanding and the Know. It’s important that you do follow up to see things from the employee’s point of view so you don’t make assumptions about what they are thinking, just because you want to see the task take place.

When you get your career to the point of supervising and managing others, you need to look at things from a team perspective and not just your personal perspective. You need to communicate to your team what you want, how they need to do it, and how the results are going to be judged. It’s a two way street in that you need to talk to your reports to see where they are. Once you get the communication running smoothly, the performance of your team takes off. When your team takes off so will the next phase of your career.

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