When to Brainstorm With The Boss…. Or Not.

Sometimes I reach out to one of my subject matter experts for his thoughts, like I did earlier today.  And I ended up practically hanging up on him when he started ‘thinking out loud’ about my question.  I didn’t mean to be rude — after all, I did ask for his opinion.  Yet I heard myself admonishing him “Hold on… you’re letting the air out of the balloon. Stop.

In hindsight, I realized what happened.  I was in the Executive Voice, wanting something done. And having absolute confidence that who I was asking to do it, could do it — delegating it, I was already moving on to the next item on my day’s punch list.

(For anyone new to Process Triaging, here’s the primer on The Three Voices of High Performing Teams — who sings what notes in high performing teams that create high performing business processes that deliver strategic objectives.)

Let’s call my subject matter expert Joe.  Joe, wanting to please, did not realize I was in Executive Voice, meaning I was thinking about either my company’s Brand, Business Model, or Balance Sheet.  In fact, the question was really about how I could leverage my company’s flagship product with another product — one Joe is a go-to expert.   So I was talking to someone who I placed into Producer Voice; and unconsciously expected only Completed Staff Work — run with it and get back to me with a finished, ready-to-implement proposal.

And, more importantly, I wasn’t clear with my signals with Joe.  I should have been more explicit, and not asked an open-ended question, “Joe, do you think there is a link between PT’s ‘X’ and (your knowledge of) ‘Y’?  And to exacerbate my error, I need to be very careful about appearing to task someone who doesn’t work for me.  We have to purchase the right or be granted the authority to task other human beings (having settled that with the 13th Amendment to our Constitution, but I digress).

When Joe tells me what he really  thinks — it will be completed staff work, and I’ll compensate him for it, no doubt.

But what happened was blog fodder.

When you’re asked for you opinion — weigh the moment.  If the question is about the Brand, Business Model, or Balance Sheet — you’re talking to the Executive Voice — and a complete, fully-formed answer may lead to an investment decision. Don’t settle for just comparing notes.