Jun 23, 2011
Stimulate Your Staff with Questions

Managers provide incentives, set goals, and acknowledge top producers; they may even use consequences or threats to motivate their team to greater productivity. They use these tactics to stimulate interest in their staff and to push them into action. Most confess that motivating employees is exhausting and time-consuming work.

Yet when that external stimulation is no longer present, people have a tendency to slip back into their old ways, to immobilize without someone there to push them into action.

Business owners tell me that they believe their primary role to be a “problem solver” to their employee’s challenges – a role they probably learned from their predecessors and mentors. Many attempt to control their environment and work within the limits of what they already have. Some spend their time extinguishing fires. Others find their sense of purpose in keeping certain challenges alive.

However, the real issue may be a neglect of what might drive employees to motivate themselves.

Seth Hallen, the owner of Home Security Inc., discovered this lesson in his business. His 25-person staff had a tendency to deviate from company procedures and thus continually delay production. Deciding that it was because they were unclear about their responsibilities,
Hallen had his staff write their own job descriptions and career goals.

The results were surprising. Telemarketers wanted flextime and opportunities for career growth. Salespeople cared more about job stability and positive acknowledgment for good performance than commission. In response, Hallen adjusted job descriptions and procedures to create individualized incentive programs geared to each employee’s goals and strengths. He empowered his staff by recognizing and acknowledging their natural abilities, while supporting what was important to them.

Hallen found that this simple exercise made a dramatic difference in how his staff approached their careers.

“There’s less friction and communication breakdowns.
People are taking ownership of their responsibilities, providing a greater sense of accountability and direction,” Hallen says. “I also find they are much more responsive to changes in our company that support the corporate vision we can all be pulled towards, rather than pushed to achieve.”

Continually providing employees with solutions can train them to lack accountability. It will likely result in the lackluster performance that you are working so diligently to avoid. It creates an environment of dependency and prevents employees from sharpening problem solving skills or from discovering their own solutions.

Today’s enlightened leaders coach instead of manage their staff. You give strength and inspiration by uncovering what internal beliefs and values motivate your team; the external stimulation of your beliefs is not as stimulating. To tap into a person’s unused talents advances personal growth and challenges people to discover their best.

Coaching utilizes a process of inquiry that allows your staff to articulate what they want and then access their own energy to achieve it. Alternatively, you’re using your energy to get someone else in motion. To uncover each person’s internal drive, ask questions. Invest the time to uncover what is truly important to your staff in order to improve performance and align their efforts with the company’s vision and direction.

Here are some suggested questions:

  • What do you want in your career that you don’t currently have?
  • What do you want to be doing that you aren’t currently doing?
  • What are you doing now that you don’t want to be doing?
  • What areas do you want to strengthen, improve or develop?
  • What is most important to you in your life/career? What does a successful career/life look like?
  • What is the legacy you want to leave behind when you are gone?
  • What are the three most important things you would like to accomplish right now?
  • What is your plan of action to achieve those goals?
  • What do you need that is missing and which prevents you from reaching these goals?
  • How can I best support you to achieve these goals? (Uncover how each employee wants to be managed and supported.)

    Invest the time to ask your staff questions, to listen to their responses and to ask more questions as you uncover what they most want. You need the right answers to stay in business, but to get ahead you also need the right questions. Allow questions to become the cornerstone of effortless leadership and long-term results.

    By Keith Rosen, MCC

    Keith Rosen is one of the foremost authorities on coaching people to achieve positive change in their attitude, behavior, and results.

    AllBusiness.com provides resources to help small and growing businesses start, manage, finance and expand their business. Material copyrighted byAllBusiness.com.

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