This is the question posed by Colleen Albiston, chief marketing officer at Deloitte Canada, and my fellow columnist at The Globe and Mail in her column last week: Don’t forget to ask: What can I do for you?
It’s a question every leader should be asking of their staff, their customers, their peers and even their superiors. Colleen describes, and very rightly so, that this question is an enabler. It opens the door for others to ask you for help – whether it’s advice, resources, or access to connections – AND it sets you up so that you can reach out to others when you need energy, enthusiasm or people power to take you further. Perhaps even more importantly, when you ask this question with a genuine interest in helping others achieve their goals, you create a workplace environment that is team-oriented and supportive. As a leader, you are a role model, and this question sets the tone for those who work with and for you.
Now not everyone agrees with me. Some people have expressed concern that this is a dangerous question to ask. “Open the floodgates and everyone will be at your doorstep asking for information and referrals, and perhaps the most concerning, your time,” said one manager at a client organization. “This sounds good in theory, but I’m busy enough as it is trying to get things done; I don’t need to add extra strain to my already escalating workload,” he continued.
So what do you think? Is this a question leaders should be asking? Or will asking it just create situations where the disadvantages far outweigh any benefits? Please share your perspective.