I was walking a senior team through a feedback session on how each team member could improve their overall performance both with the team and with others in their organization. Two of the senior members of the team got the same feedback - ask more questions and stop “telling” so much. The key question the two were encouraged to ask of others was, “How can I help you?” It’s a basic question, and can be asked in ten different ways.
As a leader, I encourage you to pick a different question below for each person who reports to you. In one week’s time, ask each of your direct reports the question you chose for them. Listen carefully without trying to solve the problem right then and there. Write out a summary of what you learned and report out to your team the next week what you learned. I bet you will get more engagement, more connection, and more energy than you have seen for a while. Keep it short and let them know, “Here’s what I learned and here’s what I want to do about it.” Let the team respond and if you can’t answer an individual’s question right then and there, tell them you promise to get back with them and have an answer.
Here are ten angles on the same prism of light - “How can I help you?”
1. What’s the biggest challenge you face today?
2. What resources do you need that you don’t have today to help you to be more effective?
3. What road blocks do you encounter that if removed, would make your work much more effective or efficient?
4. Is there anything we are doing today that gets in the way of you doing your job?
5. Are you as empowered with information or authority as you need to carry out your responsibilities?
6. Is this company tapping into your full potential? If not, what needs to change?
7. Do you see any problems ahead in our company that need to be addressed to help you fulfill your own responsibilities?
8. Are you happy in your job today? If not, what can we do to change that?
9. What opportunities for improvement do you see in your area of work?
10. What is one thing I could do to help you in the work you do?
Leadership is a powerful tool and leadership starts with a focus on those you are leading. If you focus on how to solve their problems in the accomplishment of your joint goals, you will be clearing the way for higher performance.