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Great Leaders Always Make Sure Employees Know the Answer to These 3 Questions

You’re asking for trouble if you don’t answer these questions.

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BY John Brandon - 11 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I've been testing a very popular app called Basecamp lately.

You might know it if you read Inc. Magazine or have ever visited a startup.

It's a popular project manager, but it's designed with a bit more flair than most task-based tools. You can chat with people, share files, and...basically live, eat, and breathe as a team. It's a mix of Slack and Microsoft Project, although that's only the beginning.

I've wondered at times why Basecamp is so ground-shaking for some companies. (Fun fact: I interviewed founder Jason Fried around 2002 long before he was famous.)

Now, I have a pretty good reason why Basecamp is such a hit.

The app answers the three most important questions in business. Great leaders know these three questions are always on the minds of employees (in addition to other important questions about the coffee and snacks in the break room and how much they get paid). Basecamp does an excellent job of answering these questions.

Here they are, along with why they're important.

1. What am I doing?

Another way to phrase this question is--why am I even here? Or maybe: What is my purpose? Or this one: What's the point of all of this anyway? Every employee wants to know the answer to that question. Not every boss provides the answer, or at least it's not that clear. We all have a desire to know what role we play and how we make a difference, and if we lose touch with that basic concept, we get restless and bored (or worse--we get apathetic). Avoid the trap of explaining a role once during the interview process and never bringing up the subject ever again. Make it a constant topic of discussion and conversation, especially when someone on your staff starts a new task..

2. Why am I doing it?

Why, why, and why. We really want to know! This isn't just true of Millennials. Everyone, in every age group, wants to know the underlying motivations for any task. Otherwise, we fall into a rut and feel like a pawn. If anything, Basecamp is a way to avoid ruts on a team and treat people like kings and queens. There's something active and pertinent about the tool, a unique "secret sauce" that can bring a team alive. Even the way it's designed with cards instead of boring fields that look like someone is in love with Excel works wonders. In many ways, it's all about the why--the chat, the assignments, the file-sharing. People use apps like this because they are craving meaning and purpose at work.

3. When is it due?

There's a lot of consternation with employees about due dates. No one can be a good time manager if they don't know when things are due. Also, stress is a killer at work. The number one cause of stress at any company is confusion over due dates on projects. Can the employee really get it all done in time? Who knows--because the boss doesn't bother setting priorities for the staff. An app like Basecamp (and, incidentally, another one I use called Smartsheet) really hits this point home. Your staff needs to know the lay of the land and your expectations on when tasks are due. You're setting off a ticking time bomb of confusion if you don't focus on due dates. It's hard, but worth it.