Connecting with Employees

29 November, 2016

Asking your employees how they are doing is an empty question that promises an empty answer. Want proof? Try this experiment: Walk through any hallway, busy corridor or the lunchroom at work. You can even try this experiment in your neighborhood, at your kid’s football game or at the grocery store. Ask each person you encounter how they are doing. You can try any derivative of the question you like. Try one of these: “How are you today?” or “How are things?” or “How is your day?” We all know the expected replies: “Great, thanks. And you?” or “Super,” “Good,” or the infamous “Fine,” which usually means anything but fine.

Want to really understand how your employees are doing?

Try moving beyond the script. Ask them direct and specific questions. Prove that you are interested in the real answer—not the scripted one. When someone says they are “great, ” ask what is happening that contributes to that feeling of great. Probe with second and third level questions. You don’t need to be a question genius. Simply show that you care and be curious about the other person. Don’t make assumptions about what they are telling you; ask for details.

Be patient. Sometimes people doubt that the person asking the question is genuine. I mean, why shouldn’t they doubt it? Most of us offer a scripted answer without any meaning behind it and are rewarded with short, pleasant interactions. When we do offer real answers like, “I’m having a bad day,” or “I’m really struggling with some things at home right now,” we are usually punished, if not overtly then socially. It’s awkward. People try hard to get out of the conversation. Want proof? Try it. Next time someone casually strolls by and asks how you’re doing, be bold and tell the truth. Give a detailed answer whether it’s good or bad news, and you’ll probably catch the person off-guard. At best, it interrupts the flow of the day. The person inquiring has to actually stop and pay attention. At worst, it’s terribly uncomfortable and the person asking makes a mental note to avoid you in the future.

Connecting with people and building meaningful relationships means being curious. It means listening to what is really happening in their world. This applies to our employees as well. The best way to engage your employees is to share with them and be in relationships with them.

At Dorsey Management Consulting, we help our clients learn new skills and expand their leadership capacity to better lead their organizations into the future. We help leadership teams learn how to work together more effectively and efficiently, enabling them to make sound and timely decisions in pursuit of achieving greater success. We partner with our clients to design and build succession plans and develop their future leaders. We coach executives to achieve higher self-awareness and be more effective leaders of people. We do this in service of learning, helping each of our clients become better versions of themselves and achieving organizational goals.