Help me help you!

Recently I had a really frustrating experience dealing with one of my daughter’s teachers that reminds me of conversations I have had both with my project teams and with customers. Way too often I think we find ourselves in situations where a little more effort on one person’s side would ultimately result in a better solution or experience. It usually comes down to sharing just a bit more information. I want to be able to leverage all my experiences to give you the best experience, but if the other member of the conversation with-holds information, I am unable to do this. I ask that you simply help me help you.

In the case of this particular trigger event, I received a progress report for my daughter’s english class. Overall, she has been doing really well but there was one assignment where she didn’t perform as well. I immediately emailed the teacher asking for more information. I also talked to my daughter about the assignment. My daughter told she talked to the teacher about it and had done some correction, but the jist of the issue was that she didn’t understand a portion of what was required. About a week after this incident, my daughter came home from school distressed about whether she had english homework. We checked the portal but there wasn’t anything posted. Again, I immediately emailed the teacher to find what about the homework. I did not receive a response to either of those inquiries.

Thinking that there might be something wrong with my emails, I followed up with my daughter’s counselor. She received my emails and agreed to follow up with the teachers. She specifically asked me to follow up confirming I heard from anyone. Another week passes and I still haven’t heard anything, so I informed her counselor. I then received a few emails from other teachers, but still nothing from the english teacher. After about 3 weeks I received this really generic email from the english teacher letting me know that my daughter did not meet the grading criteria on the particular assignment in question. The teacher informed me that there were opportunities to make corrections, but this would not impact my daughter’s grade.

I found this response incredibly frustrating and not at all helpful. I am no closer to understanding whether it was an issue with understanding the assignment, or an issue with not being interested in the assignment. I also don’t have enough information about the assignment to talk to my daughter about how to handle the situation in the future. My daughter told me she talked to her teacher and made corrections, but the english teacher’s feedback made it seem like that wasn’t the case. I’m still stuck in this limbo state of not being able to effectively help my daughter because her teacher has failed to provide me with enough information.

How often have we had a conversation with a customer where they left out a critical piece of background information that would have changed the context of the entire project? Had you had that information, would you have delivered something different? Or in talking to a project team, did they make assumptions about your background therefore with-hold valuable information you could have contributed critical insights to?

My background spans multiple industries and multiple functions, making my experience fairly well rounded. As we become the experts of our field or industry, a common mistake is to assume everyone we are talking to has the same information you do. It might be a simple conversation where you use the acronyms or industry terms, assuming everyone on the call knows what you are talking about. Over the last few years, my roles were more customer facing than backoffice which meant that new technical resources didn’t know I had technical skillsets. This became pretty eye-opening when I started asking technical questions.

I do believe that we were able to deliver better results because of what I brought to the table. But without me challenging common assumptions or being willing to ask for additional information, we would have lost out. We each need to consciously try to prevent ourselves from censuring the information we share.  Let’s work together, helping each other, to develop a better overall experience and meet our collective goals with the best solution.