Conversation: "What Do You Want to Do?"

One of my colleagues came to my desk yesterday and started a conversation in the team area with me:

‒ Zsolt, do you have a minute?
‒ Of course.
‒ The thing is that Alice wants me to help out with the testing of NNN and I’m wondering if I can do that.
‒ Since you have almost finished your current tasks I don’t see a problem with it, but I have to ask: what do you want to do?
‒ Alice wants me to help out with the testing of NNN.
‒ I know what Alice wants and frankly I couldn’t care less, I want to know what you want to do.
‒ I want to be part of the testing of NNN.
‒ I understand. Do you mind telling me more about your reasons?
‒ If I test NNN, I’ll learn more about how to work with X, and this is a very useful knowledge for me. It will help me with my future tasks and I’ll learn more about the whole system.
‒ Fair enough. Go ahead, it’s fine by me.
‒ Thank you. And I have to add that nobody asked me before what I wanted to do…

Honestly, I was really surprised, because I didn’t expect this outcome. Most of the colleagues tell me jokes about what they want to do, often they simply reply “I don’t know” or we have to have a face to face discussion in a closed meeting room. It was good to hear a good reasoning and see some future thinking. I’ll ask him later about this ‘X’ feature and see what else can I help him learn more about the product.

I encourage you to ask your colleagues about what they really want to do. This will help you find out more about their motivations and you no longer have to guess or assume what they think or what they want. If the response is “I don’t know”, don’t pressure and be gentle, but don’t let it go either. Find a way to talk about it later or build up an environment where colleagues feel safe to share their thoughts.

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