Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

What do you recommend?

I was in the car with my wife Laura when I received a text message from Hannah. Since I was driving, I called her back to help her through the situation. She gave me a detailed outline of the issue and waited for me to make a decision. Instead of making a decision for her, I asked her “what do you recommend?” This strategy of asking for a recommendation has proven to be very effective for me. Often times, the person contacting me with an issue knows the best course of action already. Sometimes, the person on the other end of the phone is really calling me for permission to act or its just a courtesy call.
As David Marquet says in his book, “Turn the Ship Around” intent-based leadership is the most effective. In his examples, Marquet was able to command the submarine USS Santa Fe without giving any orders. He changed the dialogue on the boat to “Captain, here is the situation and I intend to do X.” Captain Marquet could ask questions at this point to better understand the situation, but most often he found that the correct decision was already being advised. Marquet did keep a few decisions for himself as Captain (such as the decision to launch a weapon at the enemy) but 99% of his decisions were now made by the crew. Over the next two years, his submarine went from one of the lowest rated subs to the highest graded submarine in the Navy ever.
So when I asked Hannah “what do you recommend?” I was on to something. I was excited for what she would say and confident she would make the right decision. When I hung up the phone I felt great. Problem solved, on to the next thing. This was a short-lived euphoria. Laura interrupted this self-congratulation and said to me, “I like that you asked Hannah what she recommended, but before she could answer, you told her what you would do….why did you do that?” That brought me back to earth. As always I have much to improve.
This week, try it out. If you are bringing the issue, add your recommendation or intent. If you are hearing the issue, ask for a recommendation. But when you do, try to wait for the response.

Employee Iceberg