Fifteen years ago we opened up a Coaching Services division in our company. One of the models embraced and taught widely is known as LITE Skills. LITE stands for Listening, Inquiring, Testing for Truth, and Endorsing. This model has been helpful to leaders as they seek to influence others through direction and support instead of command and control.
Recently, we took a second look at this model as a part of a first-time manager curriculum. New managers need to be effective communicators and this LITE approach can help new leaders successfully address the situations they’ll face. Let’s take a quick look at the four LITE skills and then see how they can be applied to a couple of common performance management situations.
- Listening. Listening at a deep and purposeful level requires a shift in attitude. Listen to learn something you might not have known before. Listen for opportunities to have your mind changed. Listen in service to the person and the conversation.
- Inquiring. This method of questioning helps open up and generate more dialogue. Ask open-ended questions beginning with the word “what” to give people an opportunity to think, reflect, and clarify things that are important to them. Avoid “why” questions, which tend to sound judgmental and can close down a conversation.
- Testing for Truth. Since our goal is to create purposeful action through clarity, testing for truth is an opportunity to shift gears. Paraphrase what you’ve heard and check to see if it accurately represents the other person’s point of view.
- Endorsing. Acknowledge the person and maintain a respectful, positive regard for them and their contribution. Separate the subject matter from the person. Endorsing allows you to preserve a good relationship regardless of the type of conversation you have.
Putting These Skills into Context
All new managers need to master four different types of conversations — each one uses elements of the LITE skills, but in a different order or with a different emphasis.
- The goal-setting conversation. Goals should be developed side by side with your people, not given to them. Begin a goal-setting conversation by Testing for Truth to confirm that the goal is attainable. Listening can be used to surface concerns, Inquiring can probe a little deeper, and Endorsing can be used to reaffirm that achieving the goal is a partnership.
- The praising conversation. Have a praising conversation when things are going well. Start by Endorsing the successful outcome and Testing for Truth. From there, you might ask an Inquiring question. Get the person talking so that you can listen and then circle back to Endorsing.
- The redirection conversation. When things aren’t going as well as expected, begin with a brief observation. From there, focus on Listening, Inquiring, and finally Testing for Truth. Focus the conversation on listening to the person whose behavior is in question. Don’t spend time pointing out the mistake. Instead, have the person talk about the situation as you listen.
- The closing conversation. An opportunity to celebrate goal accomplishment and recognize newly gained knowledge or skills, the closing conversation also promotes reflection. In a closing conversation, begin by Endorsing and celebrating the achievement, happily Test for Truth by reviewing results, Listen for wisdom gained, Inquire about personal development and then finish by Endorsing a job well done.
Key Competency for New Managers
Having the skill, intent and capacity to engage in effective conversations is a key competency for success as a new manager. Help your new managers get off to a fast start by sharing these strategies. It will smooth their transition and improve the performance of their team.