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Tag Archives: asking questions

Employee engagement comes when you actively seek input from all levels of the organization

Jeffrey SharpeJeffrey Sharpe is a Project Manager at one of my client organizations and someone that I’ve had the privilege of working with for several months.  He is not only very good at what he does, but also a thoughtful and intentional leader, constantly seeking positive and productive ways to get more accomplished through others.  When I asked him if he would contribute a guest post here on Turning Managers Into Leaders blog, I wasn’t sure that he would agree.  But he did!  His post below gives first-hand practical advice on how to build employee engagement, both now and for the long haul.

The Importance of Engaging with Workers at All Levels of an Organization

Have you ever wondered what your workers really think of your company? How they would improve it? What they would do differently? Have you ever wondered what your senior management is planning and how it could affect your career?

The answers to these questions are within reach, but only if you are engaging your workers and customers to solicit this information. You could ask them nicely, or demand they tell you. But either way, it’s difficult to seek the truth without each party sacrificing something in return.

When I was young, my father worked at a shipyard as a welder. He would tell me stories about co-workers that were frustrating to work with, bosses who had no clue what was going on with their own front line, and “The Engineer”, a fellow so out of touch with how things operated in the real world and at the job site, it would make your head spin. Naturally, after graduating as a Civil Engineer, I was given a speech that ended with “Don’t let that Iron Ring on your finger cut the blood off to your brain”.   Now I could have taken offense to this message, or I could choose to learn from it. Continue reading

Insist that your employees be problem solvers, not problem identifiers

ProblemSolvingSome employees are serial “problem identifiers” – they’re very good at telling you what’s wrong. Whether they’re talking about a process, a person, another department, or even their own jobs, they’re adept at pinpointing and vocalizing what is amiss. But then the unspoken assumption is that it’s your job (because you’re the boss) to fix it. And unfortunately, many managers and supervisors blindly stumble into this trap (see Why do managers have a tendency to do rather than coach? and Do you tell or do you ask?). Don’t. Make it a point to insist that your employees bring you solutions, not problems.

Require that your people become “problem solvers” instead of “problem identifiers”. Continue reading

Do men and women have the same approach to taking risks?

LeanInSandbergIn her book Lean In, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to “lean in”, to “be more open to taking risks in their careers” since “being risk averse can result in stagnation.”  She suggests that women need to “overcorrect” from their current risk-averse position in order to “find the middle ground”.  Earlier this week, Professor Karl Moore at McGill University’s Faculty of Management (and my fellow columnist at The Globe & Mail) penned an article about just the opposite, how men need to “lean out”.  Together with his student Shaun Collins, they make the case for why men “need to ‘overcorrect’ from their excessive risk-taking towards a more calculated neutral position”.  This point of view that not only caught my attention, but also echoed what I repeatedly hear from leaders (both male and female) in client companies.  Continue reading

When you’re faced with resistance, ask questions

If you’ve ever had to pitch an idea or persuade others of your point of view, then you know all about the natural reaction that bubbles up from within when you hear the word “no”, or when others begin to question or criticize your perspective.  Instinctively, we tend to get defensive, and we try to immediately fight back and defend our position or project.  But in my experience, it’s actually far more effective to take a completely different approach – to ask questions.

The next time you face opposition or resistance, hold yourself back from verbalizing all the reasons why you are right or why your project should get the go-ahead.  Instead, ask a few well-chosen questions.  “Why do you think that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?” will force others to articulate their assumptions, and will not only give you a useful insight into where they are coming from, but may also cause them to re-evaluate their position.  I have found that asking questions  not only helps me keep my defensiveness in check, but perhaps more importantly, takes my conversations to a deeper level.  It allows you to get beyond the immediate disagreement and find out more about what the motivations are on all sides.

So have you found this to be true as well?  Please … share your experiences, positive or negative.