Asking Questions Shouldn’t Be Scary

Asking Questions Shouldn’t Be Scary

What is it that employees want from their managers? Simply put – timely, respectful and relevant communication. And even more precisely, the April 2015 Gallup study finds that employees want to know that they can approach their manager with “any type of question,” indicating the importance of an environment of communication openness.

Asking for help shouldn’t be scary. Here are four tips managers can implement to help create a not-so-spooky, more open and collaborative work environment.

How to Brag: 3 Rules for Effective Communication

How to Brag: 3 Rules for Effective Communication

Talking about your accomplishments to others – and not coming off sounding like a jerk – means following the three basic rules of effective communication. Follow these rules, whether you are in a one-on-one conversation at a cocktail party or giving a speech to a room full of constituents, and you will chalk up another important accomplishment: acquiring the skills to meaningfully connect with others.

4 Tips to Engage Hearts and Minds

4 Tips to Engage Hearts and Minds

Superior leaders lead through effective communication. The “secret sauce” is engaging hearts and minds to inspire action.

Did you know that many of the so-called “rational” decisions we make – and the way we behave – are governed by our emotions, and that our emotions have projective power over our thoughts? Emotions act as filters to form our desires, furnish our capacities, and to a large extent, rule our immediate thoughts. As we encounter fresh situations, become faced with novel problems or grapple with new ideas, our emotional response to each of these sets in motion the initial allocation of our mental resources. In essence, our first “read” of a new situation is always centered in our emotions, feelings and attitudes. As such, our emotions are laying the groundwork for the thinking that is to come.

Creating a powerful connection and compelling your stakeholders to take action requires engaging both the head and the heart – the mind and emotions. And for employees, engaging heads and hearts delivers higher levels of business impact faster. Here are four tips for more effective employee engagement:

1. Tell your story. Explain your organization’s vision and strategy to inspire and motivate. How? Simplify the strategy or vision in a way that resonates with employees (is personal and meaningful).

2. Set expectations. Employees want and need to know, clearly and specifically, what is expected of them. This includes both job tasks and organizational culture behaviors.

3. Actively listen. Everyone wants to be heard. Show your leaders, peers and employees that what they have to say is important by really listening. Put down your phone, turn to face whoever is speaking, avoid distractions and summarize what is said to you. Remember to take action after the conversation is over, if necessary. Actively listening shows respect and builds trust.

4. Communicate effectively. Provide the tools and coaching to help leaders and managers effectively communicate, fostering more productive and engaging relationships within their teams.

How to Ask Better Questions

How to Ask Better Questions

There are so many contexts in which people ask questions in the workplace – from peers in the office or on the manufacturing line working out a problem to a leader assessing and diagnosing a large-scale operational issue. In all of these scenarios, five rules apply. Done well, the process of asking questions can result in collaborative dialogue that allows all parties to feel they have contributed to an important solution.

The five rules are:

6 Tips for Offering Constructive Feedback

Feedback is a blessing.

Consider this: When you’re shopping for that perfect dress or suit, you have to stand in front of a mirror that reflects at three angles in order to see the whole picture.

In our day-to-day lives, we normally only see the mirror that’s straight in front of us. Feedback provides the side angle view, the perspective that makes our understanding of how we are perceived and how we are performing complete. It compensates for our blind spots and creates opportunities to achieve excellence.

This perspective is key to making feedback a positive experience – whether you are the one giving or receiving.


In other cases, it may be necessary to address broader performance issues. Here are five tips for how to deliver feedback so that it is indeed constructive:

1. Schedule time with your associate and immediately establish your intent. Frame the conversation as an opportunity to discuss development needs and opportunities. This signals that you are investing in your employee’s success rather than being critical.

2. Prepare in advance – you want to stay on point and ensure your feedback is delivered clearly and is understood. It pays to spend some time gathering your thoughts. You may even want to prepare a few bullet points to capture your key messages.

3. Begin the conversation by recognizing strengths and / or successes. After all, it is because your employee is a valued member of the team that you are having this conversation. (Otherwise, you should be having an altogether different conversation.)

4. Next, let your associate know that you want to drill down on two or three (or whatever the number is) performance issues that need work. When introducing these, be crisp and clear. At the same time, avoid being accusatory, e.g., “You did this” or “You didn’t do this.” Ask questions to ensure understanding.

5. Most important: Focus on outcomes.

Here’s an example: We were working with a CEO to create a communication to his organization announcing the sale of the company. As the “go live” date drew nearer, activity (and changes to the plan) accelerated. One member of our team was responsible for capturing all of the changes to the plan and incorporating them throughout all of the many communication channels we were preparing. When it came time to review the “final” documents before sending them to the client, we found some of the changes had not been captured. Naturally, we pulled the team together and got the work done properly.

Then, after the announcement took place, we held a team debrief to uncover what happened. Rather than blame our team member for the last-minute scramble, we asked questions like: How specifically were you capturing the changes – via handwritten notes on your hard copy of the draft? In track changes mode to the Word documents? Electronically in a separate document? We learned that our teammate had been using a combination of these methods, and agreed on one method that would work best in the future.

By focusing on outcomes, you create an environment in which individual performance improves, and the team is open to sharing learnings and best practices. What could be more constructive than that?

For more information on how On the same Page can help you become a more effective leader, email me at