‘I don’t understand.’ These three words have a lot of power in your professional career. I wish more people would use them more often.
I actively coach my people in openly using the phrases ‘I don’t understand’ and ‘Can you please explain further’.
I see that not doing so is one of the most often made mistakes by both managers and employees. You’re assuming that the other party fully understands what you’re saying or asking.
Leaders do not only talk and listen they should also always observe their people and read their body language when working with them. Body language and behavior of the other party will guide you in your conversation and should signal you to go deeper in depth on a topic or not.
Exceptional leaders will not only do the above, they will always close every request with a validation question and follow through on a closing remark with setting expectations on for instance a deadline.
As subordinate to your leader you should do exactly the same. Never walk away without validating and feel free to use the words “I don’t understand’. Saying you don’t understand doesn’t mean that your dumb, it means that your smart. You’re creating an opportunity for yourself to show that you dare to go more in depth with proper follow-up questions.
These follow-up questions will give you two things:
- You will get more insight in the actual need that is to be fulfilled, this will make you more effective in delivering the request.
- You will create an opportunity for yourself to learn and to understand. You’re actually investing in your own career opportunities. Who doesn’t want to do that.
So my tip here for both leaders and subordinates is to always validate your request and ask the other to explain your needs to you in every professional conversation. You will invest in your own career by doing so and who doesn’t want to do that.