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The best approach might be counterintuitive

4 min read


Ahh, spring! The changing season brings fresh growth, bright colors and baby foxes and deer to our Rocky Mountain meadows — and major golf tournaments to our television screens.

I played golf for years. For the first five years, I played it wrong. I was inconsistent as the dickens. Once I got serious, I hired a golf pro who helped me understand the physics of the golf swing and how to deliver the club head to the ball the proper way.

Hitting a golf ball looks simple. The reality is that a golf swing has dozens of moving parts! And, hitting the ball properly with an iron is counterintuitive to what a new golfer thinks.

Hitting a golf ball from a tee is different — and quite a bit easier. That only happens 18 times a round, when hitting from the tee box (the opening shot on a hole).

To hit a golf ball properly with an iron, so the ball flies high and straight, one should not swing “at” the ball or scoop the ball up. The purest strike occurs when you hit down and through the ball.

Hitting down and through the ball causes the iron club head to compress the ball against the grass, rocketing it forward. Accuracy is improved. Distance is more consistent. How do you know if you hit an iron shot properly? Your divot (the patch of grass the club digs out) will be in FRONT of the spot where the ball was (replace all divots, please).

For leaders, sometimes the best approach to managing team members is counterintuitive.

If a team member isn’t doing what you want them to do, you might be tempted to tell them, in great detail, what you want them to do and why.

If the team member has not done the task before, that might be helpful to them. If the team member is talented and engaged at work, there may be something else getting in the way.

Before telling them (again and again), try a counterintuitive approach. Ask them how they are doing with that goal or project — and listen.

A team member new to the task might explain that he or she tried your approach but got off track and didn’t know how to fix it. He or she will ask again for your guidance and instruction.

The talented, engaged team member might explain that the information needed isn’t complete yet; others are working on it and they should be able to act on it this week. Or, the team member may explain that the project-management software in use requires different actions at different times than how you asked this person to do the work.

Here’s another example. How do you, as leader, know whether you’re an effective leader?

Leaders are busy. They might figure that if anyone had a problem with their leadership efforts — or if anyone wanted something different from them — team members would say so.

They might not say a thing,  and for a variety of reasons.

Before assuming everything is fine, try the counterintuitive approach. Ask for their feedback. Provide multiple avenues (one-on-ones, an annual survey, etc.) for them to express what you’re doing well and what you might do differently to improve things on the team.

Learn from what they tell you. Thank them for their insights. Refine your efforts to remove employee frustrations.

This counterintuitive thing just might work.

What do you think? How have your best bosses engaged you in solutions, asked for your feedback, and the like? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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