Far too many supervisory conversations never get to the sweet spot
and suffer from what I call the yep syndrome.
Yep. I said the yep syndrome.
The yep syndrome is what happens when a supervisor checks in with a direct report and gets a short and superficial answer – “Yep.” The supervisor then allows the conversation to end.
- You doing okay? — Yep.
- Are you on track for today? — Yep.
- You gonna meet your numbers? — Yep.
- Is your project within budget? — Yep.
- You got what you need? — Yep.
There are a few variations that I still consider the yep syndrome:
- How’s your day going? — Good.
- How did things go in the meeting yesterday? — Just fine.
- You having any difficulties? — Nope.
Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with any of those questions. They are good questions. They are starter questions. But they don’t necessarily get you to the sweet spot of the conversation where you can harvest the real value of the conversation.
You see, the sweet spot is where deeper understanding takes place, trust is built, important discoveries and calibration occur, disclosures and requests are made, and plans and commitments are set. It is where capacity is developed. And the primary role of a supervisor is to build capacity.
The best way for a supervisor to build capacity is to hold regular, meaningful conversations with direct reports. Conversations that break the yep syndrome and actually get to the sweet spot.
The supervisor must intentionally take the conversation to the sweet spot. You can’t force it. You must facilitate it by asking questions, listening, and looking for evidence. It’s not about interrogation or intimidation. It’s about genuine interest and appreciative inquiry. It could be the most valuable thing the supervisor does.
A few questions that can help you to break through the yep syndrome and actually get to the sweet spot of the conversation include:
- Can you tell me more?
- What are/were you trying to accomplish?
- What specifically did you do? What did you do next?
- What results did you get from that?
- Can we take a look at what you’ve been working on?
- Can you tell me your thought process as you were working on that?
- What was the outcome?
- What would you do differently next time?
- How would you like me to help you with that?
As you ask the questions, be sure to LISTEN. Listen with the intent to understand. Listen to gather data and evidence of progress being made. Listen to assess both ability and motivation. Listen so that you will know how to best help the direct report succeed.
Breaking through the yep syndrome and getting to the sweet spot of the conversation will result in greater connection and collaboration. It will raise your credibility. It will reinforce accountability and transparency. In the end, it will increase capacity.
I know, this all sounds pretty basic and obvious, right? Yep. You might be asking yourself, “Don’t I already know this?” And your answer might be, “Yep.” But you might also want to ask yourself, “How often do I do this? What recent examples do I have of doing this? What specifically do I do and how well do I do it? What should I start doing that I am not doing now? What should I stop doing?
Come on. You know there is room for improvement. Go make it happen. And remember, it’s not about whether you have the ability to do it. You do. It’s about making the choice to do it. As you develop the pattern of doing it, you will get better at it. Your direct reports will get better at it too. And you will clearly see the results.
Best of success in breaking through the yep syndrome and getting to the sweet spot. Best of success in your role as supervisor and leader.