Saturday, February 28, 2009

Engaging Leaders - Stephen Roesler


I invited consultant and blogger Stephen Roesler (whose blog All Things Workplace was named as one of top blogs in 2008 for leadership and talent management) to join one of my guest blogger series, and said he could choose either one, Engaging Voices or Leading In the Crisis. Being an inventive guy, he wrote a piece that straddles both!

Leading In Crisis With an Engaging Voice by Steve Roesler

I'm not sure how to talk about leading without discussing engagement.

Warren Bennis recently reflected:

In discussing various approaches to leadership, I often note a distinction made between two nineteenth-century British prime ministers. It was observed that when you had dinner with William Gladstone, you left thinking, “That Gladstone is the wittiest, the most intelligent, the most charming person around.” But when you had dinner with Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking, “I’m the wittiest, the most intelligent, the most charming person around!” Gladstone shone, but Disraeli created an environment in which others could shine. The latter is a more powerful form of leadership, an adventure in which the leader is privileged to find treasure within others and put it to good use.’

One of the insidious side effects of crises is that they can start to whittle away at self-confidence. At the very moment when leaders are drawn to meetings about the balance sheet, their visibility is needed among the people. In times of uncertainty, the human condition seeks security. For workers, that comes in the form of direction and information from the top.

Lesson for leaders: Crises may call for analyses but they also call for increased visibility and connection with employees. There are many factors to consider, especially:

1. Your presence demonstrates your awareness of the community. It's easy for the average worker to begin to detach in bad times. Leaders who choose to "be present" help everyone else maintain their own presence and attachment to the situation.

2. Listen to what people are thinking and feeling. Unless someone has totally inaccurate information, simply listen.

3. Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that you heard.

4. State clearly what you are doing to address the crisis, why, and how you believe it will help. Be equally clear about what is not possible and why not.

Adults want to hear the truth. Why? Because the truth helps us make more confident decisions in tough times. People who have the truth--directly from the leader-- can engage in personal and organizational problem-solving.

What to remember: Accurate information from a visible leader gives people the reason and ability to engage in decision-making related to the situation.

It doesn't get any better than that in good times.


[© 2009 Roesler Communications/Roesler Consulting Group. All Rights Reserved. ]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

"The Universe Likes Specifics"

A couple weeks ago, I came across the idea that "the universe likes specifics." I hadn't heard it before. I googled it to find its origin, but no luck.

It came up in the context of an email exchange on the ODNet listserv, where OD consultant John Scherer was giving some advice about job hunting to another member.

Here's John's advice:

~ "What would be the phone call that would make your heart sing? Who (or what kind of person) would be calling, and what would be the invitation? Remember, when putting in your order to the universe, the more specific the better."

Seems a bit spooky, no?

Well, as one who believes in the power of prayer and being intentional about aspirations, I thought I would give it a try. So I prayed that a certain individual from a certain university would get in touch with me about a job opportunity.

The next day, I heard from that person. I kid you not.

Unfortunately it was not a job offer.

But the day after, I heard from another person from another university who invited me to see him about a possible job opportunity.

Hmmm. The coincidence of the prayer and the events that followed, has made me pause and wonder about this idea of "putting in a specific order to the universe."

I will be trying it again.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 27, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Leading In the Crisis - Kelley Eskridge


Kelley Eskridge, founder of Humans At Work, is on a mission to make managers better. She says: "Bad managers hurt people and business." No argument there. Her manifesto, where she expresses "what we believe good managing is, and why it matters more than anything in business," is well worth reading.

I am pleased to welcome Kelley to this series on Leading In the Crisis.

Fight Fear With Focus by Kelley Eskridge

These are hard and frightening times -- hard because of the financial crisis, frightening because so many of us feel powerless to do anything except watch the world slide away around us.

If this were simply a question of managing money troubles – cutting costs, revamping strategies, becoming more innovative – we’d know what to do without hesitation. But the real challenge we face today as leaders is helping people manage fear.

Fear can be a survival mechanism, but not this kind of fear. When people feel powerless, often we freeze mentally if not physically. We lose perspective on what our next steps should be because the risks are so great: what if we make the wrong choice? To counteract that, we may try to do everything, and fall into the trap of doing more instead of doing the right things.

Fear kills focus.

But here's the interesting flip side: focus helps us set fear aside, and gives us back a sense of control -- a sense that we have power to make things better. Focus helps us stay engaged rather than checking out, by harnessing the need to do something with a clear plan of the right things to do.

Here are some ways to help yourself and your team focus:

- First, stop and think. What are your team's current priorities? Don't dismiss this as a duh question. Think about it. Can you say clearly and concisely what the top 3 overall priorities are for your team right now, and how they contribute directly to increasing the company's chances for survival?

- Share these top 3 priorities with your team in a team meeting. Make sure everyone understands them and has a chance to give input.

- Ask each team member to stop and think about their daily job. Given the top 3 priorities for the team, what should their top 3 priorities be in their individual role?

- Then ask them to start thinking about daily top 3 priorities -- what are the 3 most important things I must do today to ensure success in my job and success for the team?

Sure, most of us have more than 3 things we need to get done – but if we can identify and conquer the top 3 every day, it doesn't take long to feel that we're more in control. And that only makes us more effective.

- Every morning, gather the team together for a mandatory 10-minute stand-up meeting. Announce your daily 3 priorities. Ask people to volunteer theirs. Solicit feedback. And ask if anyone needs help identifying their priorities for the day, making clear that your offer of help is real and supportive, not a "test" to see who isn't keeping up with the program.

- Finally, ask what resources or support team members need to accomplish their priorities for the day.

And if you have to spend the rest of your day making sure they get that support, then do it. Because leading means showing people a clear destination and helping them get there. We need to do that now more than ever.

[Copyright 2009 by Kelley Eskridge. All Rights Reserved]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Lesson of the Gold Traders

Via a discussion on LinkedIn yesterday, I discovered an article, written by management consultant Stephen Jones of Clear Vision Consulting, for the Arab Times, in which he draws an analogy to a ship captain encountering a very bad storm at sea.

Jones writes:

"A local Kuwait businessman related a story the other day about when Kuwaiti traders used to send their sons with the family money in the form of gold over to India. During the voyage, if there was a storm, they would have to throw the cargo overboard, to prevent the boat from sinking and everyone dying.

"The issue, raised by my friend, was that it never occurred to them to throw the sailors out instead, and he went on to say that in today’s market that’s exactly what needs to happen...downsize, cut staff — the most obvious cost!

"In business terms, throwing out the sailors from the ship, instead of the cargo is the same as downsizing, reducing the most obvious cost quickly — the staffing budget... it makes sense right??? The assumption is that as business is bad we are not making enough money, so we need fewer people! This is wrong, very wrong, and in fact in business, downsizing as a knee jerk reaction is probably the worst thing you can do, more so than just inaction
!"

What's wrong with business leaders today that they think this way? That they throw the sailors overboard in the storm?

I'm wondering if the root of this insane way of thinking, that seems to predominate in C-suites, is the formative education that leaders receive?

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with Charles Handy where he related a story about meeting with a group of young company presidents. He asked them why they were in business. They answered: to make money, to increase share price, to return value to shareholders, etc. The usual stuff.

Handy and his wife Elizabeth challenged the group to think more deeply about the meaning of business, the role of business in society.

Handy proposed that the purpose of a business is NOT to make a profit, but to produce profit so that people can have better lives. People in the business, as well as customers of the business. It's about business having internal and external integrity.

It's about business leaders having a social conscience.

Where is this taught to our leaders?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 24, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Leading In the Crisis - Michael Schaffner


Just got back from Sunday Mass, where one of our deacons, IT guy (and my partner in the St Matthias Employment Ministry) John Radvanski, preached about the spiritual significance of Barack Obama's use of the slogan "Yes We Can." It's about saying "Yes" and taking charge of the things we can control, and thereby making a difference.

In that same spirit of courageous leadership, our next voice in the Leading In the Crisis series is IT executive and blogger Michael Schaffner. Mike's blog,Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms, "is about Information Technology and how we can align it with the business to make IT an integral partner in transforming a company and in achieving its strategies. Hopefully, we'll also learn a little about transforming IT itself along the way." It has been a favorite of mine for years.

The Courage To Lead – by Mike Schaffner

The credit crunch, the mortgage crisis, and all the recession impacts loom over us everyday and our people look at us for direction. What can we do? We can’t make the banks lend money, we can’t make customers order more and we can’t make everyone’s house payment for them. What do our people expect us to do? Oh woe is us!

We call ourselves leaders; maybe we should simply do that – lead! Being a leader doesn’t mean we have to solve all the problems and have all the answers. It does mean that we need to give our people direction and more importantly help them to do their best. Our biggest task as a leader is to be a coach and a resource.

You may have heard the optimistic phrase, “I choose not to participate in the recession” and there is actually a good deal of wisdom in this seemingly trite saying. Let’s not focus on the issues we can’t fix and instead concentrate on what we can fix.

If we sit in our office and wring our hands over the issues that we have no control over you’ll find your people sitting at their desks doing the same. However, now is the time to find a common goal and to pull your team together to solve the issues they can fix.

Improving customer service, increasing productivity, reducing costs; these are all things within our control and can help get us through this crisis. Maybe, just maybe, if all of us focused our efforts on improving those things we can control the bigger issues may take care of themselves. Give your people direction, give them a goal and help them to get through this as a team. That’s what being a leader is about.

The Serenity Prayer seems especially appropriate in these times, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Do you have the courage to lead?

[Copyright 2009 by Mike Schaffner. All Rights Reserved]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 22, 2009

Starting A Blog

Lately a few people have been asking me about starting a blog and how to do it. My advice?

Just start.

Don't put pressure on yourself to have it be "the world's best" blog. Just make it real.

Let it be You. Your voice. Your passions.

Write about things that matter to You.

Do that and it will be great.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 22, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Can I Help?

In a report from Canada today, I read: "President Obama and Prime Minister Harper met briefly today . . . One woman in the crowd was asked by a reporter what she would say to President Obama, if she had the chance. She said, "I'd ask him how I could help.""

As companies close, as jobs disappear, as unemployment claims
grow . . .

The question is: How can I help?

A colleague asked me today if this downturn is worse than prior downturns. My own view is that this is the worst I've seen.

Now, more than ever, the onus is on each one of us to figure out what we can do to help.

What actions can You take now to help someone to survive this downturn?

One idea, started by Mark Stelzner, is to become a Job Angel. He writes:

~ "So I wondered, what if each of (us) helped just one person find a job? Could we actually make a difference? Here’s the original Tweet: “Was thinking that if each of us helped just 1 person find a job, we could start making a dent in unemployment. You game?”"

I've got my wings.

How about you?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 19, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Popping Up

Lately I have been lucky enough to pop up on a couple sites:

- David Zinger's blog where I am this week's featured responder to Engage-5:

Terrence Seamon’s 5 sentences on engagement:

1. I define employee engagement as a relationship where the commitment between an employee and the organization is high, mutual, and positive.

2. A big challenge in employee engagement is maintaining engagement during difficult change.

3. A powerful way to create greater engagement is to connect with people and collaborate on creating the future.

4. I am personally most engaged at work when I am aligned with the goals and empowered to pursue them.

5. To learn more about engagement, I encourage people to join the Employee Engagement Network.


- and Slacker Manager as a guest blogger, where Phil Gerbyshak published my essay "Believe in Yourself."

Thanks David & Phil.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 16, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Live And Learn

My mother Ramona had a lot of sayings. One that I've written about before is "Life is what you make it."

Another one of hers is "Live and learn." That's got to be one of the most economical maxims ever coined. It's probably shortened from something like, "You live it and you learn it."

Often uttered after you have made a mistake of some kind, it's a mother's way of saying, "Now don't be stupid. Learn the lesson from what you just did, and don't do it again."

Yesterday, a colleague on ODNET sent an email with a quote from the novelist Doris Lessing:

~ “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”

What I think Lessing is saying is that learning is a function of awakening, and throughout our lives, as we grow and change, we keep awakening over and over again. Everything old is new again.

I think my mom would agree with that.

PS - My wife Joan just asked me why I'm blogging about learning on Valentine's Day. Well, I'm really blogging about my mother, who I loved dearly. And it was she who most likely got me started down the path of learning that led me to the field of Training and Organization Development.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Leading In the Crisis - Ron Hurst


I mentioned in a prior post that I would be inviting some leadership thinkers to be guest bloggers on the topic of leading in the crisis. Several have agreed already, including Don Blohowiak and Kelley Eskridge.

To start us off, here is Ron Hurst. Based on the West Coast, Ron is a working manager as well as a passionate blogger whose Developing Leaders blog is a great source of inspiration for developing leadership potential.

In this piece, Ron addresses the importance of preserving one's values during crisis.

Do Not Abandon Your Leadership Values by Ron Hurst

For the past several weeks, as our economy has slipped into an ever worsening recession, I have found myself wracking my brain with critical questions.

- Am I leading effectively?

- Is there more I can do?

- Can I avoid some of the tough choices that lie in front of me?

All the while we see the media outlets scrambling to publish articles on how to survive the recession, how to lead in difficult times.

Honestly, I am beginning to think that parts of our economy are run by a sophisticated pack of lemmings headed toward a very large cliff.

How do we put the brakes on and change the context such that our leadership efforts have the desired impact?

Noble question, but who knows the answer?!

The more I reflected, the more I realized that there are many right answers; leadership is so context driven. Yet there is one area I want to highlight.

Abundance versus Scarcity

As the economy shrinks, and customers get harder to come by (orders even tougher), it is hard to resist the notion that the pie is shrinking. (That may be, because in the short term, it is!)

Yet we must resist this survival instinct.

If we truly believe that scarcity will rule and abundance is gone at least for now, this will drive us to make different decisions. Unfortunately our decisions become even more selfish than they are in good times.

As leaders we cannot abandon the common goal we strive for just for the false security of meeting a selfish need. We must resist the temptation to in-fight with others in our organization for scarce resources. We must resist the win at all costs mentality that panic can send us into. We must resist abandoning our long held values to make a decision of convenience.

One day, this recession will end and we will all bear witness to the fruit of our labors and decisions. If you leave a wake of bodies in your path as a result of your selfish desire of self preservation, how exactly do you think you will function and succeed? No, this is a time when true character is revealed, not built as the pollyannas would suggest. It is time a to lead with integrity, not survive with infamy.

So lead well.

[Copyright 2009 by Ron Hurst. All Rights Reserved]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Smart Moves

I just came across an IT webinar called "Smart Moves for Critical Times," being offered by i365, a Seagate company.

Smart Moves for Critical Times is a great title! My compliments to whoever came up with that.

And I think its relevance goes way beyond IT, to all other facets of organizations. Let's touch on four other applications of "smart moves for critical times."

~ Smart Moves for Job Hunters

Yesterday, I attended a talk for HR folks who are in transition, given by my networking buddy Steve Kowitz, the head of HR for a healthcare company in New Jersey. Among the many excellent points that he brought up, Steve emphasized planning, research, and networking. Here are a few of his tidbits:

- Think of your job search like a sales campaign.

- Get out of the house and join networking groups.

- Expect rejection. Stay positive. Move on.

Smart moves for sure.

~ Smart Moves for OD Practitioners

Last week, I attended the February meeting of the New Jersey Organization Development Network. The featured speaker was my old friend consultant Lucille Maddalena, who spoke about her personal journey into the field of OD. A few of my takeaways:

- Courage to take chances and seize opportunity

- Connect with people so that you build relationships and grow your network continuously

- Give to others to help them grow and succeed

- Build your brand as a trusted advisor

I always enjoy my time with this learning community, founded by Ted Nguyen.

~ Smart Moves for HR Professionals

Recently, Indian consultant and blogger Gautam Ghosh wrote an entry about the skills that HR needs to develop, including these:

- Business Acumen - "It's understanding exactly how your organization makes money and what you as a HR professional can do to impact it positively."

- Communication skills - "It sends out wrong messages about your capability when you cannot communicate an intervention/initiative's objectives and salient points in less than 50 words."

- Consulting skills - Gautam does not define this one in his posting, but I know what he means. HR professionals need to take a page from their OD colleagues and learn the phases of a consulting engagement.

~ Smart Moves for Managers

Managing in this difficult economic environment is as challenging as it gets. Everyone is anxious, including managers. So what are some smart moves?

- Communicate - Although a natural response to fear is to find a hole and hide in it, managers can't afford to do that. Fight the fear and get with your people.

- Engage - Ask others, How are you doing? What do you need? Listen to their answers and do your best to provide the support they need.

- Focus - With so much constant bad news about the economy to distract people, you need to be the focal point, the compass arrow that steadily points in the direction the organization is trying to go.

- Seek Ideas - Ask others, What are your ideas on how we can do things faster, cheaper, better? Listen to their answers and do your best to implement.

What would you add?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 12, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Big Question for February

The Big Question for February, at Tony Karrer's Learning Circuits Blog, is:

~ What is the impact of the economy on you and your organization? What are you doing as a result?


That is the question I've been wrestling with since the downsizing in October that tossed me into the job market.

What have I been doing? In addition to an energetic job search campaign, I have also been blogging like crazy to help others, including two series:

- The Engaging Voices project that has so far featured the stellar line-up of David Zinger, Tim Wright, Michael Lee Stallard, Phil Gerbyshak, and Judy Bardwick.

- The Leading In the Crisis series that is exploring the kinds of leadership responses we need in this period of upheaval. I will be inviting some thought leaders to join this series as well.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 9, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Leading in the Crisis - 2

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry called "Leading in the Crisis," where I listed some of the key qualities that leaders need in this economic downturn.

In the subsequent weeks, I realized that much more needs to be said on this. So now it's a series, and here is the second installment.

At LinkedIn, consultant Robert "Jake" Jacobs asked "What kind of leadership is needed after layoffs?"

After a layoff, those who remain experience a mixture of emotions, including:

- shock at what happened

- sadness that some of their friends were fired

- anger toward management for failing to find alternatives to layoff

- fear that they might be let go in the next round

On top of that, the work that was being done by the former employees must now be distributed to those who remain.

The resulting workplace climate: overwork, stress, anxiety, and fear.

How do you lead in this sort of environment? I'd point to three vital skills for leaders at any level in an organization.

1. Leading self - Effective leadership starts with the person in the mirror. What do you see? Where are you going? What do you stand for? What will you commit to?

2. Leading others - In a post-layoff organization, the ones who remain have a common mission: survival. Look around you. Who needs your help? Whose help do you need? How will you engage them and support them in moving ahead?

3. Leading the organization - No matter what your role may be or where you fit in the organizational structure, you have the opportunity to play a leadership role in a time like this. Ask yourself: Where is the organization trying to go? What will it take to get there? How can you help it to get there? What actions can you take right now?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 8, 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Engaging Voices - Judith Bardwick


Next in the Engaging Voices project, I'm thrilled to present consultant and author Dr. Judith Bardwick, whose latest book, One Foot Out the Door, has been described as "required reading for HR strategists."

Judy is passionate about the topics of commitment and engagement. She has pointed out that the key to good management, and indeed business success, is the relationship between the employee and his or her boss.

In the following piece (which is excerpted from a longer essay that will appear soon at her blog), Judy's aim is to emphasize perspective. She says: "Never forget the media focus on what’s terrible and rarely report good news. Naturally this strengthens a half-empty, pessimistic view. Even now when the headlines scream that unemployment is rising toward 10 percent, it’s critical to remember that also means 90 percent of the population are employed. The bottle is at least somewhat full."

The End Is Not Near by Dr. Judith Bardwick

This blog is for people wanting and needing to work who see only dim possibilities to earn money doing the work they had been doing. Some people will have the delightful surprise of landing just that opportunity, but most probably won’t. For the latter group I’d like to say things are probably not as bad as you think, especially if you are willing to change.

Broaden your horizons as to the kind of work you do or the customers you could serve. In other words, in addition to looking for opportunities doing the work you have already done, imagine other occupations where, with some training and experience, your skills could be valuable. As I tried to imagine myself in this situation I remembered three legal cases I worked on a decade ago when my specialty was career plateauing, or the end of promotions. That expertise was relevant in three age discrimination cases and to my surprise, I served as a consultant to the defense in those instances.

Imagine who might need what you offer whom you’ve never thought of as a customer.

A close friend is an independent contractor with special skills in Information Technology as applied to office work. He’s always depended on word of mouth to find clients but lately the pipeline has been empty.

He and I recently got to brain storming about what he might do: Who needs your skills and either doesn’t know it or doesn’t know how to find you? Who are potential customers?

We started to create a list: start-ups who face mountains of tasks from the git-go, doctor’s offices in which records should be computerized, long-established small and medium local businesses who use antiquated processes; organizations that don’t have training departments but need employees trained in up-to-date IT processes…the list is limited only by your imagination.

How can he learn who might be appropriate candidates for his offerings? Let’s start with:
- The local Chamber of Commerce
- Lawyers whose practice includes incorporating start-ups
- Local professional societies and their newsletters
- Schools, especially business schools and community colleges
- Online networks, alumni associations, friends, family, colleagues…

Since there are only six degrees of separation between you and someone you want to contact, no one is out of range.

Get help. Many people find it very hard to acknowledge to themselves much less to other people, that they can’t manage their problems on their own. If you find yourself stymied and don’t know what to do, or you’re paralyzed by fear of rejection and defeat, or confused by the responses you are receiving in your search, reach out.

At some point or another, the majority of people have had the experience of having reached the end of their rope without any idea of what to do next or why that’s been happening. That’s when you need help and there’s lots of it around if only you look for it. All of these sources of help will get you a more balanced perspective, new ideas, less extreme emotional responses, and active support. There’s everything to gain – and nothing to lose.

This paragraph is for everyone: those who are working and those who wish they were. While there are still many organizations in which people are employed for all or most of their working life, a very essential change since the 1980s has been the disappearance of absolute job security. This means that essentially everyone is a business with one employee. Therefore, everyone needs to remember that no one cares as much as you do about what happens to you.

Creating your future is your job. Best of luck!

[Copyright 2009 by Dr. Judith Bardwick. All Rights Reserved]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 6, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Doing Things Half Right

Way back when during the Quality movement, there was a phrase called "dirty feet" which referred to DIRTFT or "Do It Right the First Time."

To do something right the first time meant that you had to think before acting, define the problem to be solved, gather relevant data, develop a plan, perhaps even run a pilot test and see what you could learn from it. All before actual implementation.

I think "dirty feet" made sense then, and still makes sense now.

However, in a intriguing little blog post, consultant Peter Bregman offers some thoughts about times when you might want to do something half right.

Bregman points out that many carefully planned large scale organizational changes fail when rolled out. Some organizational changes are so fully baked that the intended recipients choke on the results.

If you want the end user to embrace the change, Bregman suggests: release it half-baked. And engage the recipients in a conversation around how to make it work.

My wife, the Music Director at our church, would be appalled by this idea. She would hate it. I could imagine many others in project and change management roles feeling the same way. "Doing something half right" would be unprofessional.

But from an organization development point of view, Bregman is on to something that I would say is brilliant. All too often, we unwittingly over-engineer changes such as a new performance appraisal processes, thinking that we have created a thing of elegant beauty, only to discover that our audience is throwing up.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 4, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

Engaging Voices - Phil Gerbyshak


To kick off the Engaging Voices series for the month of February, here is blogger Phil Gerbyshak and his article "Ask More Questions to Engage Others." Phil writes management and employee engagement articles at Slacker Manager. His upcoming book The Help Desk Manager's Crash Course Guide is due out in April of 2009.

Ask More Questions to Engage Others' Voices by Phil Gerbyshak

One of the best ways to get employee engagement is to listen to others' voices, for you are not alone in your quest to engage employees.

How do you listen to others' voices?

Start by asking yourself "What will I do with the feedback I get from these other voices?" If you're not willing to listen and take action on the trends you hear from those you ask questions of, don't ask.

Assuming you will be open to any and all feedback you receive, ask yourself one more question: "What's in it for the people I'm going to ask these questions?" You must frame your questions to folks based on what's in it for the other person, or they won't invest their time in giving you feedback.

The number one reason most folks will share their feedback with you is because they want to help you improve. Another reason might be because they want their job to be easier, or more meaningful, or they just want to vent. Understanding others' motivations will be vital to sifting through their answers.

Whose voices should you listen to?

Yourself
Your direct reports
Your manager
Your manager's manager

7 questions to improve engagement

What could I do to work together more effectively with you?
What is your favorite part of your job?
What is your least favorite part of your job?
What is your number 1 goal for this year?
What is your manager's number 1 goal for this year?
What is 1 thing I need to know about working with you?
What is one question you wish I had asked (and what's the answer to that question)?

Keep in mind not everyone can answer every question, so you may need to change up the questions based on your audience.

The more questions you ask, the more information you have to work from. Many of the answers will be things you can work on to create an employee engagement action plan for you and your team.

WARNING: If you don't do anything with this information, folks will NOT be willing to help you next time. Set the expectation that you will be acting on this information in the next month, and then report back and let them know what you were able to change and any future plans you have.

Repeat this process at least once a year. You'll be amazed at how much employee engagement improves when you ask questions and take action based on the answers to those questions. More questions = more results.

[Copyright 2009 by Phil Gerbyshak. All Rights Reserved]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 2, 2009