Norton: We cannot manage what we do not know |

Norton: We cannot manage what we do not know

As a partner and potential sales channel to the enterprise selling team, they were faced with a decision concerning an interaction they had with a new account executive they had just started working with. There was a lack of follow-up on the account executive’s part, and the partner was torn between letting the young account executive’s boss know, or not.

Ultimately, he decided to call their boss because they wanted to provide a coaching opportunity for the young new hire. The leader was grateful and said, “Thank you as I cannot fix something that I do not know is broken, and I cannot manage what I do not know.”

There is so much sensitivity around what we can say and what we cannot or should not say. We fear that it may not be our place to say anything at all, because after all, we may become the one whom others choose to point the finger of blame. We would rather keep our mouths shut and let the next person who receives bad service or experiences a problem be the one to share their concerns. Maybe they are braver than we are in those moments.

The question becomes this: Wouldn’t we want to know if something that we, or someone in our family, circle of friends, or company was doing something, or had done something, that wasn’t right and could potentially be harmful to others, to our family or business? Most of us would answer the same way — of course, we would.   

In the case above, the leader did use it as a coaching moment, and the young account executive embraced the feedback and became determined to make a change in his response times and do what they said they would do when they said they would do it.

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Another friend I know stopped going to the same coffee shop they had been stopping by every morning for years. When I asked them why, they said that the shop had started serving coffee that wasn’t as hot as it should be. I asked them if they let the manager know. They shook their head and said, “No.” This was a simple or minor issue that, if the manager had known or been told, could have been easily resolved.

We know parents who have approached the officials of the school where their child was being bullied. The officials were given the opportunity to fix what was broken. They now knew what they had to manage, yet they refused to take action. The final outcome was that the child was transferred to another school and thankfully, was met with a new set of friends who they became very close with, enjoying a wonderful and safe high school experience.   

It’s no different at home or in any relationship. If we do not know what is broken, we cannot manage or fix what we do not know. We have to provide others a safe environment to share what they see as a problem or an area that can be improved, and then be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that it can be better and then take the steps necessary to fix the problem.

Two of the most important ingredients to any successful relationship, husband-wife, parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee, company-customer, or any other relationship, are communication and trust. And when we can honestly and openly share with others what needs to change or be managed better, most times we will be seen as being helpful. None of us can fix or manage what we do not know is broken or a problem in the first place.

How about you? Do you feel safe and comfortable sharing with your boss, partner, coworker, or the manager of a store where you frequently shop what is broken or needs to be managed better or differently? Or would you rather someone else take that responsibility? I would love to hear your story at and when we can be open to managing and fixing what we know to be broken, it really will be a better than good life.

Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.

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