There are two questions that can change how well our people perform, how we work as a team, how we manage, and how we keep compliant. Here they are:
- How are things going?
- What can I do to help you?
Definitely not rocket science, but think about these. If you manager came to you, and genuinely asked, “how are things going?” how would you respond? Would you respond with some of your concerns or roadblocks, would you say “my mom has been really sick” or “I’m having a hard time getting through to my Assistant,” or would you say “I completed this project!” More likely than not, if you believed your manager really wanted to know, you’d share information about your or your team’s work performance. You might also share information that affects that work performance.
If your manager asked what she could do to help you, would you give an honest response? “Janelle in Accounting is holding this up, could you please chat with the CFO?” “I would like to go to this conference so I can learn more about XYZ.” “I might need your help filling in for me while I get my mom to the doctor.” Or, “James has been saying weird things to me, could you help me figure out how to handle the situation?” If you know your manager is willing to help, would you ask for it? Wouldn’t this help you?
The Harvard Business Review published an important article about questions and how they build emotional intelligence and most importantly, trust. If all the research is correct that when employees trust their manager, their performance and engagement increase, why wouldn’t we ask managers to ask questions to build trust? These questions are business related by identifying successes and concerns while offering to help.
So, how does this tie to compliance? Well, that’s an easy connection – when would people trust us, they tell us when something isn’t going quite right. They tell us when someone said something he shouldn’t have, when they need a reasonable accommodation, or when they fear a co-worker might be breaking the law. If we want to foster communication from employees on these issues, we need them to trust us. So, let’s ask them the two questions more often.
One other thing – it’s easy to train managers to lead with these questions. The hard part is getting those managers to live these questions, to turn them into real information-seeking questions. Look for those managers who do it well, keep them, train them, promote them.