Whether you are a first-time manager or have been managing people for a very long time, there is only one question that is an absolute to ask:
“How can I help?”
This may not make sense when you are measured by the performance of your team. You’re likely thinking, “Why wouldn’t the question be about their performance or workload?”
For people to care about what they do, they must first know you care. Leaders who lead from a pedestal or ivory tower will look behind them one day and find no one following. Your team has to know their success is top priority; because of that, there is no better question to ask than, “How can I help?”
But, once you ask the question, you must…
Be willing to follow through
You must listen carefully and act appropriately. Jump in help find resources and do whatever it takes for them to see you as their advocate as well as their leader. This will build an environment of trust between you and your team.
But what if I do not know as much as they do about the work they do?
Learn it! You do not have to become the expert; however, understanding what they are dealing with daily and understanding how you can help them be more productive is essential. Make sure you know who the experts are and build relationships with all of them. These people will be resources and will be invaluable in the future.
One last thought…
Do not wait until a scheduled one-on-one meeting to ask the how-can-I-help question. Every day you should be talking to your people and asking, “How can I help?”
These short impromptu daily conversations will be quite educational. Practice the habit of managing by walking around (MBWA). This gives you the opportunity to ask this question daily and to check on the progress of your team.
Remember: Leadership is not about YOU!
Got a leadership question of your own?
I’d love to hear from you! Please use the contact page to ask your question about management or leadership. I may choose it for an upcoming blog post!