One Easy Question With No Easy Answers

I have noticed that one of the qualities of top leaders is their ability to ask the right questions in the right manner at the right time.

In many organizations, leaders ask more questions than others, but that usually happens when there is a need for more information regarding an opportunity of some sort or because there is a gap between what has been done and what has been said.

Not the screaming, desk pounding, search for the guilty of a major mistake questioning; as in “Who is responsible for this!” which is not a question, but a statement.

It is not the musings of a leader unsure about what they really want; so instead of asking a direct question they pose soft “what if” or “how about” queries that does nothing but confuse those around them.

I have often advised that if my clients took the time to ask themselves and their subordinates more penetrating clarifying questions, they would get better information, make better decisions and it would improve the organization’s culture.

Put another way, become and act as a thoughtful company not an emotional one.

There is a tendency I have observed that younger people working today are much more candid, almost bold in voice and direct than I ever was, specifically when asking questions of their superiors.

No one likes being put on the spot and being embarrassed because they didn’t know the question was going to be asked of them. It is equally uncomfortable to be asked a question and not know the answer to it.

I think one of the questions today most dreaded by someone in management is a simple one: “How do I get a raise?”

Some of my clients hear this question constantly. Not just by new hires but by more tenured employees. The question is not limited to being asked by hourly or salaried employees; often top managers reporting to the owner wonder what the answer is.

While I might rephrase the question to “How do I earn a raise?” or “What will it take to have a performance appraisal and a salary review?” I give a credit to those that ask, as it shows initiative, courage and drive.

When this question is asked it says to me the organization is lacking some very basic human resources policies and procedures and if even it those policies and procedures exist, they have not been well communicated.

The question keeps being asked because the decision makers have yet to figure out the best way to answer it.

While compensation may not be the leading motivator for any employee, it is near the top of the list.

One quick way to disappoint, disengage and anger employees is to respond negatively with an insulting statement such as “You’re lucky to have a job!”

It is the responsibility of leadership to educate employees how the company makes money and to teach and demonstrate how every employee can help the company to make more of it.

If your employees do not know how your company generates revenue, how can you expect them to help you grow it?

If you do not teach your employees how and why they can better manage business expenses, how can you expect them to reduce costs?

If you do not show your employees how profit is reinvested in the business, into the organization that they receive a paycheck from, how can you blame them for thinking you keep and spend all the profits on yourself?

Employees with options for their future employment will exercise those options if they are not satisfied with the process of performance evaluations and compensation management.

Those without options will stay right where they are, and becoming more disengaged as time goes on.

That simple question you have failed to answer when asked?

It is time to deal with it before you lose the very people that can help you and your organization have a better future.