Want to Be a Better Leader? Add These 5 Questions to Your Weekly Meetings
Motivated and Inspired employees are possible. But do you have the guts to ask your employees these five questions?
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If Gallup’s most recent retention figures are any indication, almost two-thirds of your people may be poised to jump ship for a more attractive offer. And those who aren’t ready to move on may be satisfied but not particularly motivated to give their all.
This is an especially disconcerting reality with record-low unemployment making the job scene a buyer’s market.
In an effort to boost the performance and loyalty of top players and up-and-comers, managers everywhere are scrambling to reinvent their leadership protocols. Instead of focusing on discipline or correction, they’re eagerly educating themselves and their C-suite colleagues on better ways to galvanize team members and generate positive outcomes -; including a marked reduction in turnover.
Surprisingly, they’re finding success in simple dialogue.
Sticks and stones don’t inspire. Conversation does.
Good managers aren’t hard to find; good leaders, on the other hand, are like needles in a haystack. What’s the difference between the two? The latter know innately how to guide, correct, and encourage by eliciting input before issuing directives.
According to Kerry Goyette, founder, and president of Aperio Consulting Group, leaders need to cultivate their curiosity. She believes that the secret to getting others to follow isn’t knowing it all but rather being willing to learn. “The ability to ask questions and spend time listening to the answers will serve leaders well as the working world becomes more chaotic and competitive,” she says.
Of course, it can be tough to know where to start, especially for supervisors who have always led by command or title. Yet everything can change by asking a few probing questions of employees on a routine basis.
1. What part of your job is most meaningful to you?
Think about each of your workers. Do you honestly know what gives their job meaning in their eyes? Understanding the tasks that give them warm fuzzies will help you get a better handle on how to keep them motivated. Be sure to let each team member answer without interjecting any ideas yourself. The goal is for you to hear what’s being said, not to lead the discussion.
2. How can I help you?
This inquiry isn’t about asking how you can do your team members’ jobs for them, but rather how you can become a valuable resource as they figure things out. For instance, if employees feel like they’re not progressing but aren’t sure how to reach their goals, opening this door provides an opportunity for them to air their feelings and for you to provide support. As Mike Monroe, digital strategy manager at Vector Marketing, advises, “Treat your human capital as fellow travelers on an adventure, not as cogs in a machine. Get to know their stories.”
3. What isn’t going well?
Do you avoid confrontation? Take a deep breath and ask this question anyway. It’s better to know up front what’s not working than to crash and burn later. You’ll clean up a smaller mess today or maybe avoid a bad situation completely by retargeting efforts or operations. Many employees grin and bear burdens because they think they shouldn’t gripe. Understanding what’s going amiss gives your whole team a leg up, and it can shift the perception of your role from commandant to confidante.
4. What was your favorite moment this week?
Although this one might strike you as a bit unusual, it will give you a clearer view of your employees’ perspectives. For example, you may not have realized that your colleague held a birthday party for her one-year-old on Saturday or received a handwritten thank-you from a customer. Being able to celebrate the little things with team members opens a window into their worlds, and it offers you new connections with your team.
5. How can I be a better leader?
No leader is perfect. However, the only way to improve is to understand where your weak spots lie. Expect to ask this question multiple times before workers provide serious responses. Some people are reticent to provide constructive feedback for fear of retribution. For that reason, always accept analysis without reacting negatively. You can respond, of course, but don’t raise your voice, argue, or dole out the silent treatment because then you’ll never hear the truth again.
Employee motivation begins with stronger leadership, and that’s where your inquisitive skills come into play. If you want to hold on to and engage your best performers, be ready to ask for and receive information. As a bonus, you’ll discover more about yourself in the process.