The Importance of “I need…”

As leaders, we spend a lot of time looking at ways we can best manage the people who report to us. We ask questions such as:

  • How much direction do we need to give to an individual? 
  • How can we best support them? 
  • How can we be leaders that our people both trust and respect?

However, how often do we ask those questions of ourselves?  What I mean by that is how often do we look at “managing up”? 

All of us report to someone.  Most managers have their own managers.  Most CEOs report to their company’s stockholders.  Even in cases such as family-owned companies, the owners still indirectly report to their customers by responding to customer demands.

If we don’t know how to lead ourselves, how can we expect to others?

There’s a simple statement which we’re all aware of, but it gets used so little:

“I need (fill in the blank).”

Yes, it does sound overly simple.  Yet, it’s one of the most effective and powerful statements that can be said by both leaders and direct reports alike.

The “fill in the blank” is what you need in order to effectively complete the goal or task at hand.  This “fill in the blank” is also what you need to share with your own leader. 

Let’s use the example of your company updating a key piece of software that you use.  Maybe it’s your document software, or maybe something more major such as your computer operating system.  You might be having a hard time learning all the ins-and-outs.  By telling your leader “I need additional training on understanding how to use this operating system,” your leader now knows why you might seem a little stressed, and can also assist you in getting you what you need.

Most leaders are willing to help their people, but by using “I need…” it takes a lot of the guess work out of it for them, and makes better use of both your time and theirs. 

Thoughts?  Leave your comments!

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  1. Perfectly timed piece Ken, especially for business leaders in Asia. I can say from personal experience that this tip if implemented by supervisors will save a lot of time, mitigate frustration and increase productivity especially in knowledge work.

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