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October 4, 2012

Workplace Diet: The One Question Every Leader Must Ask (And the One Every Employee Needs to Answer)

Idescribe the imagef you want employee support to achieve your goals, it’s critical for them to be able to answer the question, “How do I fit in?” This is different than, “What’s my job?” 

It’s like the story of the two bricklayers. When asked, “What are you doing?” one bricklayer answers, “I’m building a wall.” Another answers, “I’m building a castle.”

We need more castles and fewer walls.

It’s not that the walls aren’t important, but the vast majority of employees want to feel connected to something larger than themselves. That their work is contributing to something significant. We, as leaders, want and need that, too, if we are to achieve our goals.

So when employees hear the CEO speak, they can see themselves and their work in his or her remarks. When they read earnings results on the intranet, they know that they contributed to a much larger cause. When the job is done, there’s some personal satisfaction that something greater has been accomplished than simply a task.

There are Eight Key Questions Every Employee Has that need to be answered to get employees engaged and answer the question, “How do I fit in?”

As leaders, how do you know whether your employees can answer this question? Ask them.

It might sound something like: 

  • “Help me understand how you see your role, and how it contributes to our strategy?” or
  • “How would you articulate the contribution you make in our department?” or
  • “How do you see how you fit in?”

If they’re building a castle (and the right one to meet your strategy), reinforce what you’re hearing. Tell them how their contribution matters and how they’re doing. Tell them what they do well so they’ll do more of that. Then, feel good yourself.

If they’re building a wall, coach them on how you see how they fit in. Explain the strategy, why it’s important, the role your team plays and the critical role that they play. Help them see what you see. In the process, you’re helping them understand their contribution and feel great about themselves. Then, you can feel good about yourself, too.

Who will you ask today, “Help me understand how you see your role?”


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