Successful managers and supervisors know how and when to be assertive. They communicate their needs in a way that earns them respect and gets results.
Let’s say you need a budgeting project done by Friday. Here are seven strategies to help improve your assertiveness skills so you can get more done:
- Choose the Right Time. Managers often need to spend the time necessary to impress upon employees the importance of tasks. Imagine you’re running down the hall, late for a meeting. A colleague passes by. You call out: “Can you have the budgeting project done by Friday?” Because you haven’t reserved a special time to bring up the issue, the colleague may have no reason to think your request is a top priority.
- Choose the Right Place. A closed, private space is best when discussing major issues or criticizing job performance. It’s also a good idea to use neutral locations. For example, a meeting room can be better than your office. Neutral locations let you leave easily if the discussion becomes heated.
- Be Direct. For example: “I need you to work overtime on the budgeting project.” Or simply, “You need to finish this project by Friday.” Whether or not employees like your requests, they’ll respect you for not beating around the bush. Try this trick: “Could you work overtime on the project?” This question shifts responsibility for the decision from your shoulders to the person you’re asking.
- Don’t Use the Word “We.” Instead, use the words “I” and “you.” For example, when giving directions, don’t say: “We need the budgeting project by Friday.” It’s better to say: “I need you to finish the project by Friday.” Using “we” when you really mean a specific employee reduces responsibility and may cause the individual to come back and say: “I didn’t know it was my job.” It is best to put the responsibility squarely and completely with the relevant employees.
- Be Specific. Don’t give vague directions such as: “Put a rush on the project.” Instead, say: “I need the budgeting project finished and on my desk by 8 a.m. Friday morning.”
- Use Body Language to Back up Your Words. “I need that report Friday morning” is assertive enough. But if you mumble this statement while staring at the floor, you take the punch from your words. Use eye contact and speak up.
- Confirm Your Request. Ask employees to take notes at meetings. When meetings end, ask specific employees to repeat back the specifics of your requests. This tactic minimizes miscommunication. Another trick is to follow up with a memo. Not only does a note summarize the particulars of a meeting, the written word tends to carry more weight than the spoken word.