I'd like some advice coaching a direct on 2 issues:

1. He has a tendency to take a long time to get to the point
2. He has a tendency to come into my office and be very chatty

So I guess I could really use some advice from 2 angles. The first is regarding how to provide feedback and coaching to help him adopt a "bottom line up front" behavior. This is not something that comes naturally to him, so I feel that just simply telling him to "get to the point" is not going to be an effective solution.

The other thing I could use some help with is simply communicating to a DR that I'm too busy to chat. I want them to feel comfortable coming into my office to tell me something that happened in their personal life, or just to chat for a few minutes. But when I truly am too busy for idle chit-chat - or even a business issue that they need help with but can wait until later in the day - I struggle with how to say "I'm busy" without alienating them.

This DR in question tends to be very sensitive emotionally and tends to take things too personally, so I'm particularly "stumped" with how to provide the proper feedback to him. I feel that it would be easy for him to draw a conclusion that I don't WANT to talk to him or to help, which of course is not the case at all.

edwin_park's picture

I had a similar problem a while back. If the DR agrees that there is a problem and wants help, it makes the conversation a lot easier.

Ideally, you want the DR to do BLUF, but depending on the situation, that may be too much of a jump. It would be a good stretch goal.

Basically, we agreed that when the DR comes to my office, we would set up a timer for 30 seconds (vs. 5+ minutes) for the DR to make the point. If I ask a question, we can obviously continue, but if I have no idea what the DR was talking about, the DR has to come back another time. This may not work for everyone, but this is what WE decided together, so it worked.

iainmagee's picture

This often winds me up something chronic! I suppose the easiest way of dealing with it depends a bit on your personal style.

The high D in me would roll my eyes – say “Come-on man” – “Come on” – “Get to the point” – while making wind up gestures and drumming my figures on the desk!

The high C in me would come up with a timer system like Edwins :)

Not that I'm particularly advocating either as a solution. But I do think it's perfectly acceptable for you to say, "I'm just in the middle of something but I'll call by your office in a hour for a chat. Is that ok?" - or "I've only got 2 minutes right now. Give it to me quickly!".

If it's going to take a longer discussion then arrange to come back to it - at least then it's on your terms and your timescale. Provided you DO actually come back to it then your DR can't say you don't care.

Your DRs need to respect your time & committments - as you do theirs. If the DR is so emotionally sensitive that they take offense then perhaps then need some coaching on how not to be so emotionally sensitive :)



frago's picture


I have a very similar issue with one of my directs.
Here's what I've been doing:

Lots of feedback: "When you take five minutes to tell me all the back story on this issue, I get lost and don't understand your point." Lather, rinse, repeat. The feedback helped make him (and keeps him) aware of the issue.

Coaching: At the start of the year, I brought this to him as a coaching opportunity and introduced the BLUF concept. We set milestones for both his written and oral communication (e.g., stating the bottom line in the first sentence of all written communication). He's had good progress. At our O3s, I ask him to give me examples of oral communication in the last week where he used BLUF. This keeps him focused on it too.

The BLUF concept gave us a nice shorthand as well. Today he wanted to tell me something when I was on my way to a meeting. After about 30 seconds I could tell we were on a bad path and I simply said, "Bob, I'm on my way to a meeting. What's the bottom line." He took a breath and gave it to me. It's starting to become simple.

While I've seen some big improvements, I doubt this issue will ever go away completely. Right now I'm just shooting for 'better'.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

What is the personality type of the DR? If they're a D, you could simply say, get to the point. Of course, if they were a D, they already would have. :)

I'd work with them to come up with a solution based on their personality type and get their buy-in. Then, hold them to it, because they'll slip. You can use this as an opportunity to explain DiSC, and help them improve all of their interpersonal relationships.

jhack's picture

Forget about the DR for a minute. What is your need here? Is the DR affecting team performance? Is the DR just annoying? You say you're "too busy" but it's not clear to me what that means.

How about your team? Is chattiness keeping others from their tasks, or annoying them and eroding team cohesion?

If they like to chat, BLUF is irrelevant. They want time with you, and issues are found to justify the visit. frago's advice is solid: ask for the summary and explain that you have a deadline. I would add "can we meet at X time for 10 minutes to discuss?" to establish a standard of being both open, and also making it clear that our schedules are precious and need to be managed. When you meet, stick to the topic. If they go off topic, suggest another time (in the future) to discuss.

Good luck. Be glad they want to please you.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Give him feedback. A professional is obligated to take feedback.

You can do it gently, with a smile, and then follow it up with being open to him at other times, as well as seeking him out.

Go to his cubicle, and ask how things are and how you can help. Further, if you go to his cube, you can leave when you choose.


kklogic's picture

Are you doing regular O3s? I just started, but I've found that my direct is starting to save things up for that. It just took answering questions with "let's discuss that at your one on one" if it wasn't urgent.